CA chairman says 8.5 percent more for operating expenses is too much

$33.5 million proposal gives Coffman `heartburn'

January 18, 2004|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Association's proposed 2005 budget has an 8.5 percent increase in operating expenses, an upsurge that board Chairman Miles Coffman says is too high.

Coffman said the jump from $30.9 million in 2004 to the proposed $33.5 million in 2005 gave him "heartburn." Operating expenses since 2001 have hovered around $30 million.

"I've got a problem with an 8 percent increase in operating expenses," he told the board and association staff Thursday night during a work session on the budgets.

The association's 2006 budget is proposing $33.8 million in operating expenses.

Staff members told the board that $308,000 could be cut from the 2005 operating expenses because of reduced legal fees, an error in calculation in employee benefits and bond repurchases.

The staff also gave the board a list of items that total $753,000 and are contributing to the extra expenses. Some of the items include $368,000 for energy audits of the association's buildings; $62,000 to develop a cable television show; $55,000 for a teen-outreach position at the association's Teen Center; $45,000 for a study on whether the association should lease, build or buy a new headquarters once its lease expires in 2007; $24,000 for the stabilization and restoration study of the Woodlawn slave quarters; and $17,500 for a diversity focus group.

The board is scheduled to approve the 2005 budget next month, when it will also conditionally approve the 2006 budget.

The 2005 budget estimates $52.2 million in income with a $4.5 million surplus. For 2006, the association anticipates $53.4 million in income with a $5.6 million surplus.

However, Coffman said those income estimates are likely to be inaccurate because the assessment income could be reduced if Del. Shane E. Pendergrass' legislation proposing a 10 percent ceiling on property assessments is approved.

Coffman asked the staff to run models of the budgets that would show the impact of Pendergrass' legislation.

A public hearing is scheduled on the budgets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at association headquarters, 10221 Wincopin Circle, Columbia.

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