Draft McLean Community Center budget funds energy study, playground and more

The McLean Community Center at 1234 Ingleside Avenue (courtesy MCC)

(Updated at 2:50 p.m.) Operations at the McLean Community Center (MCC) are starting to look a lot more like 2019 — at least as far as its budget is concerned.

The center’s governing board will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) to gather community input on its proposed budget for fiscal year 2025, which will begin July 1, 2024 and end on June 30, 2025.

The draft funding plan will represent MCC’s return to full operating levels after a few years of reduced capacity and programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, before that, a full renovation of its facility at 1234 Ingleside Avenue.

“Due to various circumstances, the past several years’ budgets have been anomalies,” MCC Executive Director Betsy May-Salazar said by email. “…It wasn’t until the second half of FY23 that MCC began to see a recovery in operations and programming. FY24 (the current budget year) is picking up to pre-Covid levels of program revenue and FY25 is budgeted, and expected to be, a full year of return-to-normal operations.”

Maintaining the current tax rate of 2.3 cents per $100 of assessed value that has been in place since 2015, the proposed budget projects that the community center will bring in $7.5 million in revenue, a 9.5% increase over the final fiscal year 2023 numbers. More than 82% of that will come from the real estate tax, but over $1 million is expected from programs and events.

The $8.3 million in anticipated expenditures includes $800,000 for capital projects.

In addition to carrying over $557,023 for upgrades to The Alden theater from the current year, the draft budget has added a $800,000 request to make the Old Firehouse Center entrance and bathrooms accessible in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. That amount will be reduced after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved $500,000 for the project yesterday (Tuesday) in a carryover package.

MCC has also proposed reallocating $50,000 that had been set aside for an electric vehicle charging station to instead fund an overall energy study.

(Correction: The story originally stated that the full $250,000 placeholder for the EV charging station had been reallocated to the energy study. Just $50,000 is reallocated, while the remaining funds have been removed from the budget, MCC says.)

The governing board has suggested undertaking a study in accordance with the prioritization of sustainability in MCC’s five-year strategic plan and its involvement in the county’s Interagency Climate Team, according to May-Salazar.

“The intent of the study is to explore and make a full assessment of the center’s facilities to see how they can become more energy efficient,” May-Salazar said. “We expect to receive a report with recommendations of best practices for MCC to adopt and/or maintain.”

A timeline for the study hasn’t been set yet. It’s slated to be approved by the governing board when it meets tonight, May-Salazar said.

Other planned projects include $40,000 to improve stormwater drainage behind the community center, $50,000 for an OFC sensory room, $25,000 for new signage, and a $50,000 contribution to the campaign for a new McLean Central Park playground.

Led by a group of volunteering parents, the McLean Central Park Playground Team is seeking to raise $400,000 to replace the existing playground and tot lot at 1468 Dolley Madison Blvd with more modern and accessible equipment.

Since launching this spring, the campaign has raised $260,000, according to team member Jenny Gregory.

“Our fundraising team was very excited to learn that MCC included a contribution to the playground in their proposed budget,” Gregory said. “MCC has been supportive of the playground renovation, both by wanting to donate toward the project, but also by inviting us to their community events happening now through December, so we can continue getting word out to the public.”

The playground upgrades will be part of a larger renovation of McLean Central Park by the Fairfax County Park Authority, which adopted a master plan last year that calls for an amphitheater and updates the tennis and basketball courts, among other improvements.

MCC is working with the park authority to replace the park’s existing signage with a new digital sign, according to the draft budget, though the amount of funding needed for that project remains to be determined.

Written comments on the fiscal year 2025 budget will accepted through Friday, Oct. 6. The draft will go to the governing board for a vote on Oct. 25, but a final approval will come from the Board of Supervisors in spring 2024.