Columbia Association passes largest-ever capital budget, increases annual charge cap

.@ColumbiaAssn passes its largest-ever capital budget.

The Columbia Association Board of Directors passed its largest-ever capital budget for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 on Feb. 25. The budget also calls for a one-percent increase in the annual charge cap, the first increase since its inception.

The operating budget for fiscal year 2017 estimates $66 million in budget expenses and $69.8 million in revenue. For fiscal year 2018, the operation budget is slightly higher, with $68.2 million in expenses and $72 million in revenue, according to a press release.

The capital budget for fiscal year 2017 is $21 million and $17 million for fiscal year 2018. It includes funds to construct a new indoor facility at Long Reach and a multi-year project to improve the Columbia Swim Center at Wilde Lake Village Center.

According to a statement by CA, the capital budget reflects "a focus on ensuring that CA's facilities and amenities are able to serve the community for many years to come."

The annual charge cap, which covers slightly more than half the cost of services by CA, was increased from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent, reeling in an estimated $260,000 in additional annual charge revenue. The increase is intended to pay for planned improvements to amenities and facilities.

"Many of these features were built early on in Columbia to help attract people to our wonderful community. Now some of them need improvements and renovations over the coming years to help Columbia remain a community of choice," according to CA's website.

The cap has been whittled since its inception, according to David Greisman, a media relations specialist for CA. In 2006, it was cut from 10 percent to five percent, four percent in 2007 and three percent in 2008. Since 2009, it has rested at 2.5 percent, Greisman said.

The Owen Brown Tennis Club and Bubble's five indoor courts will be replaced by six indoor courts in Long Reach off Old Dobbin Lane across Long Reach High School's ball fields, according to a press release. The tennis club is expected to be open in 2018.

The bubble, which opened in the late 1990s, is "reaching the end of its useful life," according to a statement by CA.

The capital budget also includes improvements to the Columbia Swim Center, which opened in 1967.

In the first phase, water slides with new flumes and a stair tower will be constructed, along with the installation of a new piping system. The second phase will include upgrades to the locker and changing rooms and the lobby area, along with ensuring the facility is compliant with federal regulations for people with disabilities. The third phase, expected to be completed in 2018, will replace the wading pool.

CA operates on a two-year budget cycle. On off years, the board approves budget amendments to account for needed changes. This year the board will begin reviewing the fiscal year 2018 and will vote early next year.

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