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.