VM Meeting/Budget Workshop Produces Draft Budget with $302 Homeowner Assessment for 2021

The Aug. 17 WCA Budget Workshop began with two potential draft budgets—but the one with a $16 assessment increase to cover increased salaries at the swim and tennis centers ultimately won near unanimous support from those present.

The meeting, which combined the monthly Westchase Voting Members meeting with the annual budget workshop, was largely led by Westchase Community Association (WCA) Treasurer Dale Sells and Association Manager Debbie Sainz, who went through the budget, reviewing each line item and how she determined it.

Prior to the meeting, Sainz had released two budget drafts. One offered an assessment of $302, an increase of $16 over last year. That budget kept pool and tennis hours as they currently are. The second budget, featuring reduced pool hours in West Park Village, lowered assessments by $1 to $285. While stating he did not want to be the president who raises assessments, WCA President Shawn Yesner stated that, factoring in inflation, the association had not seen a real assessment increase in a decade and were facing, down the road, the need to raise payroll to meet the required $15 minimum wage by 2026.

The difference between the budgets was largely how the association would cover a projected increase of roughly $57,800 in swim and tennis center payroll, necessary Sells, Yesner and Sainz stated, to raise hourly salaries there to remain competitive and successfully hire new lifeguards. Currently, Yesner told WOW, the lifeguard base salary is $9.50 per hour but that needed to be raised to $12 per hour. (Costs to the association on the per hour basis, however, are higher due to payroll costs and taxes the association covers).

Sells stated the budget that kept assessments level was offered simply to show the steps the association would have to take to avoid an assessment increase. That budget, in its worksheets, closed the West Park Village pool December through February and opened it only 4-9 p.m. on school weekdays. Yesner observed at the meeting, however, that the cutbacks could be spread across both pools, if VMs and the board opted for them.

Sells began by describing the budget process which sets assessments. “This was an experience for me,” he stated. He said as part of his review, he reviewed the WCA’s assessments over the last decade. From 2012-2015, the assessment totaled $320 annually, he stated, and then dropped under $300 in $2016. He added the annual average was $296 over the decade. “It’s fluttered around the same $300 range for the last few years,” he concluded.

At WOW’s request, Sells and Sainz also reviewed past annual surpluses/deficits at years’ end. From 2015 through 2017, the association ran surpluses on their roughly $1.3 million budgets of $57,506, $76,958 and $44,557. In 2018, the association ran a deficit of $5,816 before returning to a $80,484 surplus in 2019. The pandemic in 2020 produced an unusually high surplus of $129,931 because expenses were unusual low due to operational cutbacks. Sainz’s spreadsheet also showed a projected surplus of $23,079 for the current fiscal year. In total, since 2015, the association has built up a total of $406,699 in surplus funds. This amount is in addition to the six months of operating expenses ($667,077) the association keeps in case of disaster and the $1,472,344 the association projects it will have in its reserve fund by year’s end. That reserve fund consists of dollars used for the replacement of big ticket items, which are assessed and set aside over the items’ projected lifespans.

Sells stated the overall increase to the $302 budget was largely driven by three factors. First were the swim and tennis center payroll increases. Second were the increases the association had to make to its reserve funds. This specifically was an increase of $16,085 to bring the reserve line to $108,932; this number was kept lower by transferring some past years’ surplus funds into the reserve account. This update was the as the result of a recent reserve study, which is undertaken every five years. Third were increased legal, postage and printing costs and increased costs related to the coming year’s review and updating of Westchase’s governing documents (homeowner rules). The general legal line increased $5,080 to $59,080 while postage and printing expenses (related to required homeowner mailings for document amendments) increased by $10,332 to $32,118.

In Sainz’s review of the budget, she also highlighted expenditure decreases. Among them were Pool Supplies (-$16,400), which she attributed to a change in the way the association chlorinates its pools, Property Insurance (-$3,900) and The Masters Swim Program (-$6,400 due to its elimination).

While VM Mary Banks (Castleford) inquired why the WCA maintained lifeguards at the pool and whether they could be dropped, WCA President Shawn Yesner stated he would strongly oppose any move to remove lifeguards. He cited the multiple rescues the guards make annually, the increased insurance costs that would result, and the legal exposure the association would face in an accident if the WCA previously had guards but did away with them. Sells added that in addition to protecting lives, the guards protect the association’s property from damage by users while present.

With Sainz’s presentation complete, Yesner observed that the sense he was getting from VMs was to keep with the higher $302 assessment and keep operating hours as is.

VM Jerry Pappa (The Greens) remarked of Westchase HOA fees, given the service level, “At $302, it’s a bargain.”

VM Michelle DelSordo (Alternate, Classic Townhomes) added, “To cut corners to do small things like that is a disservice.”

While VMs briefly debated increasing the assessment by another $10 to cover the increase to $15 per hour now, the proposed budget was eventually kept at the $302 level by VMs and also emerged unchanged from a later board executive session, where they discussed staff compensation.

The only other changes coming from the workshop were to increase summer camp counselor payroll lines and offset it somewhat by increasing summer camp fees.

At VM Rick Goldstein’s request, roughly $2,400 was also budgeted for vulture remediation in case the Westchase Community Development District (CDD), which currently has an agreement to address the matter, chooses not to pursue more aggressive measures.

VM Russ Banks (Bennington) ultimately made a motion to convey VM support for the $302 budget to the WCA board. That motion passed with only VM Keith Heinemann (Radcliffe) opposed.

Click here to view the draft budget.

Closing the meeting, VMs were told that WOW would be running the bios of declared board candidates in September’s edition. These included incumbents Eric Holt of Radcliffe and Dale Sells of Harbor Links/The Estates as well as Mark Bolton of Radcliffe and Patriva “Triva” Mack of The Shires. As the meeting concluded, DelSordo, who previously served on the board, added that she had belatedly decided to run for the board as well.

VMs adjourned at 8:03 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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