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WCA Budget Workshop Projects $13 HOA Assessment Increase

The Sept. 5 Westchase Community Association (WCA) annual budget workshop combed through a draft of 2018’s $1.5 million budget prepared by Association Manager Debbie Sainz before landing on a new assessment for Westchase homeowners.

At $275 the 2018 assessment represents a $13 – or 5 percent – increase over this year’s assessment.

Subsequently the assessment and budget went before the WCA Board of Directors for approval at their Sept. 7 meeting. There it was approved as part of the board’s consent agenda, triggering a 10 review period by Westchase Voting Members. With the VMs not taking action to reject the budget, it will become the official 2018 budget for the WCA on Sept. 17.  Click here to view the budget.

About 22 association members attended the Sept. 5 budget workshop, which began at 6 p.m. Nearly all were VMs or board members. The session was introduced by WCA President Ruben Collazo and WCA Treasurer Forrest Baumhover before Sainz reviewed the budget by explaining how each line item was determined.

Sainz stated that the amounts budgeted for the majority of the lines were based on running averages for the last 18 months.  Other lines were shaped by input or projections from WCA professionals.

Baumhover emphasized that great attention was paid to determining the true costs of the WCA’s swim and tennis programs, which, for the first time, included estimates for insurance coverage and even chemical costs used in pool maintenance. The numbers were used to then determine if program fees covered association costs in addition to the 80 percent of the fee paid to the professional. He observed that the calculations resulted in an increase in the fee he paid for his own kids to participate in the swim team while many of the tennis programs already more than covered their costs. “Overall the swim and tennis programs at least break even,” said Baumhover, stating he wished to ensure programs were not being subsidized by homeowners who don’t participate in them.

WCA President Ruben Collazo made a couple of observations. First,  indicating the association’s $9,850 collected in deed restriction violation fines through the end of July, he stated, “Anyone who thinks we’re getting rich off fines, point to that number.”

Collazo then explored support for budgeting $5,000 for the development of a Westchase mobile phone app, perhaps in conjunction with WOW, to provide updates and opportunities to pay assessments and programs more easily. Most agreed the idea was worth budgeting for, at least to explore further, so $5,000 was added to the budget line for web and IT costs.

An item sparking the greatest number of questions was the significant $85,000 increase in payroll costs for Westchase’s swim and tennis centers. Collazo stated that the majority of the increase would go to pay facility staff to check IDs and unlock the tennis courts for residents, now that the association’s problematic hand-scanning entry system had been scrapped. When WOW’s reporter asked what portion of the increase was specifically related to staff costs for scrapping the system, Sainz responded it was $76,000. Collazo added, however, that the increased staffing, which was already being done, had improved customer service at the facilities. He added it was keeping out non-residents successfully and was well received by residents using the pools and courts. “Right now it is not broken and it was really seriously broken before,” he said.

The proposed change provoking the greatest disagreement among workshop participants was pitched by Bridges VM Cynde Mercer. Citing a poll she had taken of Westchase residents, Mercer suggested the association budget for opening the West Park Village pool for lap swimming for four additional hours during the mornings – at no additional charge to participating swimmers. She argued it was only fair to do so because the TBAY Westchase swim team uses of the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center pool throughout the week for its practices. Mercer argued that the pool was being used in the afternoon exclusively by the 85 members of the swim team, only 10 of which are actual Westchase residents. “I’d propose we consider early morning lap swim. I think we need to consider the homeowners and their needs.”

Currently the early morning masters swim program opens the pool for three two-hour swim sessions weekly but its roughly seven participants pay a program fee to help cover the costs of the staff member who opens the pool at 5 a.m.

Collazo, however, cautioned Mercer that it was the board’s position that the Countryway Boulevard pool was to be kept open for residents use even during swim practices. He added that any resident who finds it closed during practice should contact the board.

While the pool had been shut down during swim team practices by its staff earlier in the year, Collazo put an end to the practice when it was brought to his attention. At no point had the board authorized its closure for the exclusive use by the swim team.

Yet Mercer’s suggested earlier opening of the pool for lap swimming would cost a projected $35,771 annually in increases staff costs – $10.18 per home. Radcliffe VM Eric Holt, however, expressed opposition. He cited the fact that only about 170 residents took Mercer’s survey and just over half of them even indicated they wouldn’t support the expansion if it increased their homeowners’ assessment. “I don’t know how my neighbors would respond to paying 10 or 20 bucks for 100 people.”  He added, “That’s a lot of money for a limited amount of people.”

“How many times did we poll the entire neighborhood about the [construction of] the tennis cabana,” countered Mercer. “We should do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

“It’s not the right thing for me, Cynde,” said West Park’s Steve Raff.

Raff, along with West Park Village resident Debra Guerino, strongly opposed the suggested expanded use of the West Park Village pool in the early hours, citing the unfair impact the added traffic and noise would bring to their neighborhood.

Their opposition to the expanded use of the facility brought pushback from West Park Village VM Mary Griffin (Single Family Homes). “You bought your home across the street from a Westchase pool,” she observed incredulously.

“It’s a neighborhood area,” responded Guerino.

Baumhover pointed out that he was now paying $300 more for his kids to participate in the swim team to ensure residents who use the program pay for its total costs. He argued that most Westchase residents voted by not responding to the poll, which was circulated only on the WCA’s email list. He added that most who did respond didn’t want their assessments to go up. “Most people would probably not vote for an increase,” Baumhover concluded.

Holt agreed. “I think we’d have a lot of owners that would say, ‘No way.’”

Ultimately costs for increasing the pool hours for lap swimming were not included in the budget.

With the conclusion of the review, WOW’s reporter pointed out that while the budget was calling for an increase of $13 per home, the draft budget’s year to date income and expenditures for the current year, if compared, suggested the association was already running a surplus of $78,108 through July 31.

Sainz, however, stated that this was because many program fees from the summer programs were included in the numbers but not the final summer salaries. The reporter, however, pointed out that the summer programs ended just 10 days later with August’s return to school.

Sainz committed to determining the actual projected surplus for this year before the board approved the budget. At the Sept. 7 board meeting, Sainz told directors that the projected 2017 surplus was $59,155, or $17 per home. The board, however, made no changes to the WCA budget workshop’s spending plan.

Wrapping up the session, Griffin observed the budget represented a good deal for homeowners, pointing out that the WCA’s assessment was $319 per home just two years ago.

The workshop concluded at 7:52 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted Sept. 13, 2017

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