September 4th, 2022
Hello neighbors, and happy Labor Day. I hope everyone has a safe and memorable Holiday Weekend. It’s time for your Board of Directors to bring you up to date about what we are working on to support our community.
When Steve, Nancy, and I volunteered to run for the Summit Estates at Fischer Board of Directors we all endorsed a formal Vision Statement, Mission Statement, and Shared Values for our community. In both the Vision Statement, and Mission Statement we acknowledged maintaining Summit Estates at Fischer (SEF) assets as a primary responsibility for the Community and our Board. We also committed to being fiscally Responsible.
I’d like to inform you about the Summit Estates at Fischer Budget and financial outlook. I would also like to inform you about planning for the future administration of our Association, and get feedback from you about your vision for how our Association will operate. This is one step we are taking to communicate with you about the business of our Association, to be transparent about what we are doing, and to seek your input as we work to make responsible decisions about SEF – Core values that your Board committed to when we asked for your trust and vote.
First, for the budget. Our finances are tight, but not dire. The board met on July 20, 2022 to take a mid-year look at our budget, make adjustments, and think about challenges we are facing and how to address them.
So, here is where we stand today (income and expenses prior to our Budget Workshop on July 20):
Total Revenue (dues, miscellaneous income, interest) $35,400
Total Budgeted Expenses $26,005
Current Unbudgeted Surplus $9,395
Road Use Fee Revenue $16,000
Capital Expenses (new mailbox clusters) $8,177
Unbudgeted Surplus $7,824
On July 19, 2022, we had a balance in the Association Bank Account of $71, 560. This balance includes funds carried over from previous years budgets.
We are confident that our projections for expenses for the remained of 2022 are mostly reliable. I say, mostly, because we face some very big challenges with respect to maintenance, one of our core responsibilities.
The biggest maintenance challenge we face is our roads. SEF owns about 5-1/2 miles of paved roads. We completed a road inventory and assigned some general maintenance priorities to our road segments last spring. Most of our roads need serious maintenance beyond pothole repair. Our roads are “chip seal” roads. This means they have a base of compacted crushed limestone several inches thick that is topped with asphalt oil and clean rock chips. This is very satisfactory construction for the size of our community and the volume of traffic they are expected to support. However, chip seal roads require resurfacing with the chip seal process every five to ten years depending on the amount, speed, and weight of traffic. Extreme weather will also have a significant impact on the conditions of this type of roads.
We project that most of our roads will require resurfacing within the next five years. This means we are facing a projected road maintenance cost of well over $315,000.
Our current revenues will never accomplish this challenge. We have to begin talking about increasing our fees so that we can meet our expenses.
Today, construction traffic is one of the biggest contributors to traffic on our roads. Construction also contributes wear from significantly heavier loads than typical residential traffic. We collect a $1,000 Road Use Fee and a $1,000 road deposit for approval to construct a primary residence on a lot in SEF. One option is to increase our road fees. We might also need to consider road fees for construction of additional structures on a lot. At the time of our Budget Workshop there were 114 lots that still are undeveloped. Increasing road fees will help us overcome our current road maintenance shortfall, but it will not provide for long term funding for continuing maintenance.
We will also have to look at increasing our current Maintenance Fee (dues). Today SEF collects about $26,000 in Maintenance Fees. We collect $100 per lot annually. This is very low, and it won’t continue to sustain our operations budget, or capital improvements like road maintenance. Routine expenses are rising; insurance, taxes, legal and professional expenses, and general maintenance expenses are all going up. For example, we ran out of available mail slots for our members this year. We bought three mail box clusters, with forty-eight slots for $8,167. It cost SEF $170 to provide a mailbox for each new home in our subdivision this year.
We have to begin thinking about increasing our Maintenance Fees soon. As we do this we must consider increasing them so that we can continue to function as an Association. Once our community is built out, there will no longer be road fees available to repair or maintain our roads. We have been blessed by numerous volunteers who help with maintenance, but in the long run we will have to rely on our generous volunteers and increased revenues.
In the very near future your board will be developing plans and proposals to increase our fees. We hope to avoid a sudden drastic increase to secure our financial position. But we will be proposing increases. We also hope to avoid unexpected assessments for maintenance of our facilities.
Our Restrictions, Assessments, and Easements provide that we can only ask our members to vote for changes to fees during our annual meeting. In the upcoming weeks we will be developing plans to address our financial needs. We would value your input as we do this. You can send us a detailed message using the “Send Us Your Message” form on the Board link on our webpage. You can also offer us your ideas on our community’s Facebook page. All of our Board meetings are open to members and we will always offer members the opportunity to address us during these meetings. We typically post out agendas at the gate, the park, and on our website several days before each meeting. Minutes from Board meetings are also posted on our Webpage.
Another challenge the Board is beginning to address as we plan for the future is taking a hard look at our governing documents, primarily our Declarations (Restrictions, Assessments, and Easements) and our Builders Requirements.
Today, we are governed by Articles of Incorporation, Subdivision Plats, Declarations, Bylaws, and Builders Requirements. Each provides specific protections and responsibilities for members. Information and guidance in each document is often overlapping with other documents, vaguely worded, and confusing for most readers.
These documents also date back fifteen years or more and don’t address some of the challenges and needs we face today. For example, two years ago there was concern expressed by many members about the use of residences in our community as short-term rentals; AIRB&B, VRBO. When the board looked into limiting these, they found that our requirements for single family homes and prohibitions against running a business on an SEF lot simply did not give SEF any authority to regulate whether or how these short-term rentals can operate in our community.
This is but one example of how the current Declarations limit our ability to preserve and enhance property within our subdivision, by upholding our Covenants, Declarations, Bylaws, and Policies. Simply put, the way these documents are written and constructed, consistent interpretation and enforcement is difficult and often requires legal advice.
Today the Board is reviewing and attempting to revise the Declarations and Builders Requirements so that we can reasonably uphold and enforce them, consistently, and without having to resort to legal challenges to protect our community. We are trying to make them more reasonable and current for things like driveways, flag poles, solar panels, and landscaping. We are also looking to improve our ability to administer these with respect to how and when we ask to meet with our members to discuss fees and assessments. Once a year at the annual meeting does not allow us to do this in a manner that meets our financial needs. In the end though, we also want to maintain the character of our community and avoid making our Declarations oppressive.
Revising our Declarations is another topic for which we would value your advice. What do you think? Are our current governing documents understandable, are they interpreted consistently? Are they too restrictive, or not restrictive enough? Please share your thoughts with us. Again, you can send us a detailed message using the “Send Us Your Message” form on the Board link on our webpage. You can also offer us your ideas on our community’s Facebook page. All of our Board meetings are open to members, and we will always offer members the opportunity to address us during these meetings. We typically post out agendas at the gate, the park, and on our website several days before each meeting.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you, our members. As we move forward, we will continue to try and keep you informed about what we are doing, and seek your input on critical issues for SEF.
Willy Conrad, President
Summit Estates at Fischer