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Proposed budget for Columbia includes first spendable surplus $48.5 million blueprint would target facilities


The Columbia Association released a proposed $48.5 million budget for the coming fiscal year last night, the first in which the 30-year-old planned community will have a surplus to spend on projects rather than to use to cut deficits.

The spending plan includes more dollars for maintenance and improvement of existing facilities rather than the building of new ones, and the expenditures represent an 8 percent increase over current spending.

The proposed budget contains good news for Columbia's 87,000 residents: The association would cut membership rates for most of its recreational facilities, including pools and gyms, by about 5 TTC percent. A "new member" family rate for the package plan, for instance, would decrease $30, from $621 to $591.

Under the spending plan, the association "assessment" -- essentially a property tax on Columbia homeowners -- would remain the same, $0.73 per $100 of assessed value.

In a letter to residents and Columbia Council members, Deborah O. McCarty, the association's president, said that fiscal 2000 -- May 1, 1999 to April 30, 2000 -- represents a "landmark year" for the nonprofit homeowners group.

For the first time, the association will have a surplus -- about $560,000 -- having paid off its $28.9 million in accumulated deficit.

McCarty, who replaced Padraic M. Kennedy after he retired last summer, also said that the association's emphasis will shift from building facilities -- such as the Columbia Gym that opened recently in River Hill village -- to renovating and upgrading existing ones.

The association's proposed operating budget shows $43.1 million in income and $41 million in expenses.

The proposed budget includes $7.5 million for capital projects: $371,000 for pathway replacement Columbia-wide.

$370,000 for renovations to the Phelps Luck Neighborhood Center.

$250,000 for landscaping and renovations to the Harper's Choice Village Center.

$225,000 for upgrades to the Oakland Mills Village Center.

$150,000 for a new 45-space parking lot at the Columbia Ice Rink.

$103,000 for the replacement of five tot lots.

The Columbia Council's 10 representatives -- one for each of the nine villages and the Town Center -- will discuss the proposals over the next several months.

The budget would be adopted at the end of February.

Pub Date: 12/18/98

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