Columbia Association sets hearing tonight on 1994-95 budget

January 27, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Columbia residents will have an opportunity tonight to ask for more -- or less -- from the Columbia Association.

The Columbia Council has scheduled a public hearing on the association's proposed $31.8 million operating and $5.8 million capital spending plans for 1994-95, proposals that hold the unincorporated city's property assessment rate at 73 cents.

The hearing will be held at 8 p.m. at Kahler Hall in the Harper's Choice Village Center.

In a budget summary, association President Padraic Kennedy says the spending plans maintain existing services, keeps recreational membership rates low or unchanged in some cases, reinvests in facilities, finances two new swimming pools and reduces the $20 million accumulated operating deficit.

"We probably won't have a lot of residents dissatisfied with any aspect of the budget," Mr. Kennedy said in an interview, noting that in the last two years concerns over a golf course project and the annual property charge attracted large and spirited crowds.

In 1992, some residents urged the association to reduce the annual charge, while others advocated building an 18-hole golf course or providing more services. The council reduced the annual charge, or assessment, from 75 cents per $100 of assessed property value, the first decrease in Columbia's 26-year history.

Last year, proponents and opponents of the $5.2 million golf course project came out en masse. The council approved the Fairway Hills project by a 5-4 vote.

Mr. Kennedy said the assessment rate probably won't trigger much debate, especially since recently reappraised East Columbia properties showed a minimal average increase in value compared to 1990.

But Alex Hekimian, president of Alliance for a Better Columbia, a citizens advocacy group, contends the association could "give more for less" by more closely examining its expenses and could find ways to reduce membership rates.

Councilwoman Norma Rose of Wilde Lake village has said she sees room for possible cuts in large expenses, such as the $1.1 million allocated for marketing and selling recreational memberships, and in smaller ones, such as the Sister City student exchange program. She agrees that some fees, such as the one for outdoor pool memberships, are too high.

The proposed operating budget represents a 3.9 percent increase over this year's $30.6 million spending plan and a 57 percent increase over the $20.3 million fiscal 1989 budget.

The 10-member elected council, the association's board of directors, will hold a budget work session Feb. 17 and a public hearing, if necessary, on budget revisions Feb. 24.

The council plans to vote on the budget Feb. 28 or March 1. Those meetings will be at 8 p.m. at the Columbia Association Building, 10221 Wincopin Circle. The fiscal 1995 budget will take effect May 1.

The association manages the unincorporated community's recreational facilities, social programs and open space lands.

The proposal includes:

* Membership rates that increase by up to $4 for outdoor pools and up to 4 percent for the Package Plan, which includes the use of various athletic facilities.

* Free beginner swim lessons for adults as well as children and pro-rated pool memberships beginning Aug. 1.

* Staffing at the Lake Elkhorn Nature Camp to serve developmentally disabled children.

* A half-price discount at all association camps for income-qualified residents.

* More individualized attention at school-based day care sites serving children with special needs.

* The addition of Sunday evening concerts to the free Summer Lakefront Program.


TOTAL INCOME: $33.8 million

* From property assessment: $17.1 million

* From facility memberships: $8.5 million

TOTAL EXPENSES: $31.8 million

* Personnel costs (including 4 percent average merit raises): $10.9 million

* Interest expense: $8.8 million

* Village association grants: $2.25 million


* Membership services: $13.8 million

* Open space management: $6.6 million

* Community services (including village grants): $6.3 million

* Administrative services: $2.7 million

* Other: $2.5 million


ASSESSMENT RATE: 73 cents per $100 assessed property value (assessment is based on 50 percent of full market value)


ANNUAL FEE PER $100,000 OF VALUE: $365

CAPITAL PROJECTS (Total budget $5.8 million):

* River Hill pool and meeting room: $1.15 million

* Kendall Ridge pool: $965,000

* Replacements, resurfacing, repairs: $774,000

* Columbia Association maintenance facility improvements: $690,000

* Supreme Sports Club: $263,000

* Ice rink: $240,500

* Land maintenance equipment: $214,650

* Pathways: $199,500

* Swim center: $188,000

* Hobbit's Glen Golf Course: $186,500

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