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News Maryland Howard County Columbia

CA Board mulls changing annual charge

Since 2003, the Columbia Association annual charge to residential and commercial property owners has remained the same; $0.68 per $100 of assessed value.

And while the charge will remain the same through April 2015, the CA Board of Directors is exploring either increasing or decreasing the charge by $0.02 in the 2015 and '16 budget.

According to CA Chief Financial Officer Susan Krabbe, CA's annual charge makes up 53 percent of CA's annual revenue with $0.01 of the assessment rate equivalent to approximately $503,000 of total revenue.

Krabbe estimates an increase or decrease of the charge by $0.01 would result in a loss or gain of $13 for the average residential property. However, the stakes for commercial properties are much higher, with a company like General Growth Properties, who owns the Mall in Columbia, set to lose or gain approximately $15,400 by a $0.01 change, according to Krabbe.

"I do not want to go up to a $0.70 or more, but $0.69 is appealing to me this year for the first time ever," said Cynthia Coyle, board member from Harper's Choice at Thursday's board meeting.

Coyle cited the numerous capital projects CA has lined up, which include enclosing an outdoor pool, the renovation of SplashDown, the possibility of building a new headquarters and upgrading its aging infrastructure.

"It would be nice to capture a little more income. ... Revenue is an important thing at this point. Our infrastructure is falling apart and we really need money for the infrastructure."

Suzanne Waller, board member from Town Center, also said she could support an increase in the annual charge rate.

"We would need to have strong justification to do it, and I think we do," Waller said.

Waller, too, cited the indoor pool and Columbia's infrastructure, but also mentioned CA's efforts to become with the American Disabilities Act.

Waller also pointed out that the increased revenue would aid CA in the management of approximately $30 million of long-term debt, which Krabbe estimates the organization will take on in the near future.

'Tough times'

While some board members argue for increasing the rate, others feel it should be decreased.

"For some of our residents this is tough times and I'd like to reduce the burden on them," said Russ Swatek, board member from Long Reach. "There are people out there hurting, and I think we should give them a break."

Oakland Mills board member Alex Hekimian, citing a November 2012 survey, said residents won't support an increase in the charge rate.

"You are treading on troubled water," Hekimian said. "I think it's going the opposite direction of what people want."

While the board has stayed consistent with the annual charge rate for many years, it has consistently lowered the charge rate cap, which governs how much an individual's annual charge can increase from year to year.

The cap has remained at 2.5 percent, which is well below the maximum number of 10 percent, since 2009.

Despite the staff recommendation to keep the rate and cap the same, the board has asked Krabbe and staff to explore scenarios for increasing and decreasing the cap by $0.02. The options are scheduled to be presented to the board, which intends to chose an option to pursue, at its next meeting later this month.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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