Budget Workshop Reveals Proposed Annual Assessment of $321

Westchase Community Association Vice President Joaquin Arrillaga welcomed approximately 15 voting members to the VMs’ annual budget workshop on Aug. 30.

WCA President Shawn Yesner was unable to attend.

Dale Sells, WCA treasurer, opened the meeting with a brief overview of the workshop process. He explained that the budget is a spending plan for the coming year, which determines how much of an assessment Westchase homeowners must pay annually.

Forty one percent of the budget goes toward running the WCA; 45 percent to operate the swim and tennis facilities; and the remaining 14 percent funds allocations to reserves, according to Sells. The WCA has come in under budget five of the past seven years, and exceeded the budget in the remaining two years.

The largest challenge that the WCA board faced while working on the budget was an 18 percent increase in projected replacement costs of existing assets due to an increased cost of goods, said Sells. This necessitated an increase of reserve requirements in the amount of $350,000 that must be funded over the remaining lifetime of those assets.

The WCA board approved the use of excess funds to help cover part of the reserve increase, an increase in appropriated funds, and unbudgeted expenses arising for Master Plan Committee projects. In total, said Sells, this decision will draw down about $248,000 of the current excess funds, if approved. That would leave an excess funds balance of approximately $117,000. This use of excess funds enabled the board to decrease the proposed annual assessment by $33, explained Sells.

Property Manager Debbie Sainz then took the floor to present the proposed budget line by line to the voting members. She said that the majority of the numbers included in the budget were based upon averages either from the past year or 18 months, then adjusted for any notable foreseen differences.

Addressing revenue first, Sainz reported that the main source of income is the annual assessments from the 3,514 Westchase homes, which total more than $1 million. Additional revenue comes from summer camp programs; tennis court, pool and activity room rentals; and violations, fines and late fees.

Moving on to administrative expenses, Sainz shared that the line item for management and accounting fees takes into account an annual salary increase of three percent, which pertains only to community staff, and not to Greenacre Properties.

Regarding the slight decrease from this year to next in the budgeted amount for postage and reproduction expenses, Sainz said that there will be no amendments to the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs) in 2023. That negates the need for some of the printing and postage that was used this year.

One of the voting members asked why the 2023 proposed budget allotted only $12,592 for an entire year of web and IT costs when the 2022 actual year-to-date expenses were $16,903 as of June 30. Sainz explained that the 2022 expenses included $13,500 for the WCA’s new website, which was a one-time expense.

Sainz then outlined other administrative expenses, including WCA events and celebrations (Movies and Concerts in the Park, etc.); Welcome Committee and other committee expenses; and legal fees, both general and pertaining specifically to violations.

When it comes to insurance costs, said Sainz, they typically anticipate a ten percent rate increase annually across the board, which resulted in a proposed total cost of $64,245 for the coming year.

The payroll for the swim and tennis facilities reflects an average wage of $14 across all employees and hours worked. In 2023, they hope to have the pool slide open from 11 am to 5 pm, seven days per week for ten weeks in the summer, and the WCA has budgeted an additional lifeguard shift to cover those hours.

Under the line item for pool supplies, Sainz shared that they transitioned from chlorine tablets to liquid chlorine at the beginning of 2022. This change made it difficult to budget for the current year, as they were unsure of what the actual usage and corresponding costs would be. They focused on the year-to-date expenses through June 30 of this year and doubled them, bringing the proposed 2023 total to $25,208.

A voting member questioned the amount of grounds maintenance for the swim and tennis facilities. The actual year-to-date expense as of June 30 is only $900, and $7300 has been budgeted for all of 2023. Sainz said that the CDD pays Davey for those services, and the WCA reimburses the CDD. The majority of those services occur in the latter part of the year, she said, which accounts for the apparent disparity.

The board estimated that the utilities for the swim and tennis facilities would increase by an average of ten percent. Sainz said that during the budget preparation process, she discovered that the WCA had been overcharged by TECO. The company agreed to adjust for their mistake, which is reflected in the proposed 2023 amount for electricity.

In contrast to electricity charges, the 2022 trash removal year-to-date expenses have been much lower than what had been budgeted. Waste Management had been increasing their rates by eight to ten percent every March, so Sainz said when the county’s contract with them was up for negotiation, they reached out to Republic Services for a quote. That quote came in substantially lower than Waste Management’s. The WCA now pays $192 monthly at the Countryway facility, as opposed to the $600 they were paying per month to Waste Management.

When Sainz finished going through every line item, she shared that the 2023 proposed budget will require homeowners to pay an annual assessment of $321, which is a $19 increase from 2022.

Sells reminded the voting members that if the WCA board had not agreed to use excess funds to finance some required expenditures, the assessment would have come in at $354. Although the assessment has varied throughout the years, he said that the proposed $321 is equivalent to the rate assessed ten years ago.

Arrillaga then explained that the voting members either tacitly approve the proposed budget by doing nothing, or they have thirty days in which to challenge it by requesting that the WCA president call a special meeting. He also said that the board spent three and a half hours discussing the budget in detail at a recent meeting. He credited Sells with coming up with the plan to use excess expenditure money to lower the assessment.

The board will vote on the budget at their next meeting on Thursday, Sept. 8.

By Lynn Gonzalez
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