The River Hill Community Association, which serves the residents of Columbia's newest village, expects to finish the fiscal year $10,857 in the hole -- and is asking the rest of Columbia to bail it out.
The village association also is requesting $38,170 in additional funds for next year -- a 77 percent jump over current levels -- which would pay for higher staff wages, more staff hours and higher operating expenses.
River Hill officials say they have fallen short in money-making ventures, such as renting out their meeting room. And they want to bring wages for their three-person staff in line with the lowest wages at Columbia's nine other village associations.
"We would like to bring them up to the bottom," said River Hill official David W. Berson.
Even if the River Hill officials get all they want, their association would receive considerably less in public funding than Columbia's older and larger villages.
Nevertheless, such requests for bailouts and additional funds are relatively rare for Columbia's community associations -- which organize community activities, address local traffic problems and enforce architectural standards.
It might seem particularly strange for such a request to come from River Hill with its collection of $300,000-plus houses. But in Columbia's governance structure, the money paid by those homeowners in an annual assessment -- which amounts to a local property tax -- does not stay in River Hill.
Instead, it goes to fund the $40 million budget of the Columbia Association (CA), the homeowner organization that manages the resident planned community. In turn, the association doles out about $1.3 million to the smaller community associations, based in part on population. In the most recent disbursement, Long Reach village received the most money -- $184,144 -- while River Hill received the least -- $49,768.
Long Reach has about 14,000 residents. River Hill, which is about a third developed, has about 3,000 residents.
CA's 10-member board of directors will decide in the next two months whether to grant River Hill's request for more money. Pam Mack, an association spokeswoman, said such requests are not common but she declined to comment on the validity of River Hill's request.
Also at issue is how much money the River Hill Community Association earns for itself.
Each year, the 10 smaller community associations augment their income by renting out meeting rooms and offering classes to residents.
4 In River Hill, that has not gone well this year.
"We clearly overestimated the amount of revenue we could bring in," said Berson, who represents River Hill on the Columbia Association board of directors.
River Hill has only one building for meetings.
A larger facility will be constructed within a few years. The other villages have more and larger rooms -- and in turn bring in much more money in rentals.
For this fiscal year, which ends May 1, River Hill officials budgeted $16,625 from leases, rentals and "miscellaneous income," according to River Hill budget documents made available yesterday.
They now expect to take in only $9,885 from those sources.
Berson said the River Hill meeting room has limited parking and has only one entrance -- through the staff offices -- which makes it less appealing than other Columbia facilities.
"It's harder for us to market that room," he said.
The River Hill Community Association also expects to overspend its $67,609 budget by $4,591.
Berson blamed much of this on "development issues" in the new village, some of which he said are more complicated than those which confronted the other villages when they started in past years.
For instance, Berson pointed out that River Hill village manager Sunny McGuinn has spent a considerable amount of time with county officials discussing environmental issues -- which means the River Hill association has had to pay more money to keep a part-time employee staffing the community association office.
With the $38,170 increase requested for next year, River Hill officials have proposed:
Increasing their architectural covenant adviser position from 25 hours to 40 hours a week, because of a 60 percent increase in the number of houses.
Increasing the community assistant position from 10 hours to 20 hours a week.
Increasing annual phone expenses by $2,000, in part to give community association staffers a separate phone line for their computer.
Spending $1,000 for a "villagewide event" to celebrate the village's August birthday.
Buying a second office computer for $1,950.
"The people of River Hill expect a high level of service," Berson said.
One way they get that is with one of the most extensive community newsletters in Columbia. But even that has been a bit of a mixed blessing.
Next year, the community association expects to take in $4,830 in advertising revenue, but to spend $5,000 producing and delivering the newsletter.
Pub Date: 1/23/97