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Woodbridge Villas Tackles Renovations With Big Special Assessment

This summer Hillsborough County transit supporters kick off a year and a half long campaign to convince local residents to vote for a half cent increase in the sales tax.

If they’re smart, they’ll hire Woodbridge’s homeowners’ association board to lead the effort.

While in recent years some Westchase Voting Members have found themselves in an uphill battle to get a majority of their residents to vote to replace their crumbling 20-year-old mailboxes with new black aluminum ones (at a cost of about $300), Woodbridge’s HOA recently convinced a majority of its villas owners to vote in favor of a special assessment ten times higher.

“It passed,” stated Woodbridge President Rick Goldstein of the homeowner vote for the neighborhood’s big special assessment. “We had room to spare.”

That sub-homeowners association, covering the 40 villas located in Woodbridge, won approval to levy a special assessment of nearly $4,000 on each of its homes. Specifically, they aimed to raise $152,266.60 to cover work improving Woodbridge’s pool as well as its deck and cabana; replace the villas’ nearly 20-year-old roofs, repair the neighborhood’s sidewalks and entrance gates; and repave their roads.

The total bill comes out to $3806.67 per unit. “The law requires it be done over one fiscal year so it will be spread out over eight months,” said Goldstein. “We’d like to do more but the law would not allow that.”

The assessment comes on top of the Woodbridge’s regular monthly assessment of $244, meant to cover all landscaping, roofs, exterior painting and rights of way. A gated community, Woodbridge’s HOA owns all the roads and sidewalks behind its entrance. (The Westchase Community Development District owns the sidewalks and the rights of way in other gated communities like The Greens; in neighborhoods without gates, Hillsborough County owns and maintains all sidewalks, rights of way and roads. The CDD, however, trims all of Westchase’s street trees.)

To pay for costs associated with property management and maintenance of their facilities, HOAs levy annual or monthly assessments on their members. Most HOAs, however, also use a reserve schedule that predicts the replacement costs of major capital items like road repaving or roof replacement and assesses a portion of it annually to ensure the association has the funds to tackle the projects when they’re needed.

Goldstein and his board, however, are quick to emphasize that they don’t blame previous Woodbridge boards for maintaining assessments that were too low or reserving too little for replacement of major capital items. “It happened, I think, because we locked into our bylaws [a rule that] we can only increase our monthly fees by only five percent [annually]. Any increase required a special vote. People didn’t want to do that and boards were reluctant to increase monthly fees.”

Goldstein added, “I think people were looking at their pocketbooks, which is understandable, and thinking, ‘Things look fine. And if we need to we can always do a special assessment.’”

Woodbridge’s HOA has done special assessments in the past to address maintenance items. In March of 2014, the association levied a special assessment of $259.25 per unit for landscaping updates and mulching.

How did they win support for the latest special assessment?

“People were having roof problems,” Goldstein said. “People were not happy with the landscaping.”

“We just pointed out that infrastructure is 17-years-old,” he said. “And we were putting Band-aids on it and it was going to cost us.”

Rather than come back with requests for special assessments for a half dozen separate items, the board elected to address them all at once. “I’m very fortunate that I have board members and a property manager who were fantastic in really nailing down really good costs and estimates for us,” he added. “They also spread the word.”

He also attributed the success to the hard work of his fellow board members. Fred Leveziel, vice president; Phyllis Roman, treasurer; Mary Rodriguez, secretary; and Nilo Menendez, the Member-at-Large.

“It’s leadership. It’s providing everyone with the information they needed,” said Goldstein.

Goldstein and his board will look for an increase to the HOA’s regular monthly assessment next fiscal year to pay for better property management and legal services. Included in that effort will be a push to reduce future needs for large, special assessments. “My goal for our annual meeting is to go for an increase in our annual assessment so we can build up our annual reserves.”

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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