Columbia Association’s (CA) board of directors voted in late February to pass the budget for fiscal 2019, which runs from May 2018 through April 2019; and the conditional budget for fiscal 2020, which runs from May 2019 through April 2020.

That vote came after the previous issue of The Business Monthly went to press, so I wanted to use this April issue to spotlight what the budget entails — what it means for the community and for CA.

CA uses a two-year budget cycle to ease the burden on its volunteer board and on our staff. The process is extended and extensive. As there is so much to discuss and so many opportunities for public input, we plan two years at a time, and then revisit the conditional budget the following year to see what adjustments may need to be made.

The annual charge rate remains the same that it has been since 2004: 68 cents per $100 of valuation, assessed on 50% of the fair market value, as determined by the state of Maryland for property tax purposes. CA’s annual charge rate is nearly 10% less than the allowable maximum under state law, which is 75 cents per $100 of valuation.

The annual charge, which is paid by residential, commercial and industrial property owners, provides approximately 54% of CA’s income. The remaining 46% comes from memberships, classes, programs and fees.

The fiscal ’19 budget includes approximately $74.5 million in revenue and $70.7 million in operating expenses. That budget was built on strategic objectives that emphasize financial and environmental sustainability and, as befits CA’s mission, the budget is centered on activities, services and amenities in which the community is interested.

If you flip through the pages of CA’s budget, you’ll see a breadth and depth of programs and services, the many reasons why Columbia is such a great place to live, and how much of a difference CA makes in differentiating this community from others.

CA’s budget reflects an enormous investment in open space, in beloved amenities such as lakes, parks, pathways and tot lots. The natural environment is at the core of Columbia’s character. As such, CA has a responsibility to take care of the environment, whether that is through reduction of our carbon footprint in everything from our building systems to the buildings themselves, or through the work we are doing to restore our streams and improve the watershed.

There is also funding for 23 outdoor pools, three fitness clubs, and other sport and fitness facilities. This, after all, is a community that values wellness and recreation. And the budget also continues to prioritize community services, which include the free concerts and movies nearly every night at the Lakefront Summer Festival, the multicultural programs that continue to highlight the importance of diversity, the before and after school care programs, summer camps and other family friendly activities.

And CA’s capital budget shows a continued investment in many of the facilities that serve you, including the numerous village and community buildings CA owns and maintains, as well as our fitness and recreational facilities.

Among other projects scheduled to take place during the next two fiscal years: a significant set of renovations at Columbia Athletic Club that will modernize Columbia’s oldest fitness club; the third and final phase of upgrades to Columbia Swim Center; renovations to the theater at Slayton House in Wilde Lake; more improvements to CA’s pathway system; a new HVAC system at Columbia Gym; an ADA-compliant wading pool at Hawthorn Pool; dredging at Lake Elkhorn; pond dredging and repairs; bridge replacements; watershed stabilization; and renovations at the Supreme Sports Club.
These decisions are based on need, as well as on what CA can reasonably afford to borrow. Over the years, we will continue to address our aging infrastructure.

Through it all, we will proceed with the guiding philosophy of using the community’s resources wisely.
E-mail milton.matthews@columbiaassociation.org with questions/comments.