As of this post, all owners should have received their 2021 assessment and budget. We felt it important to note a few things about those.
For 2021, our assessment remained at $285. This is the charged amount in the assessment letter and attached budget references. This is the sixth year we’ve maintained that charged assessment. However, after adjusting our budget to reflect our rising costs, this is the first year we’ve had a deficit in the budget.
Our budget deficit for 2021 is $3,940. This is the difference between the charged assessment of $285 and the needed (levied) assessment of $307.64, multiplied by 174 lots. This is noted as Deficit on the 2021 projected budget.
We felt it was important to hold the assessment at this amount for another year, despite the deficit. We made this decision because we understand 2020 has been a difficult year for many folks. It didn’t feel right to raise our assessment. We believe we can manage this deficit with careful oversight of our expenses and, hopefully, a year without major surprise expenses.
Each year we adjust the upcoming year’s planned budget to reflect what we’ve seen in the current year and historically. Our goal is always to develop a budget that covers our known, predictable expenses and mitigates the need for special assessments to cover unplanned expenses, such as the $14,362 single month water bill in 2019 due to a leak. By the way, we apply for a credit when we have a large water leak, but we must pay the bill and then wait for the credit to negate some of the excess expense 3-4 months later.
We’re seeing an increase in the cost of landscaping, utilities, and management expenses. These are significant enough to warrant some adjustment in the budget. In some instances, these costs are simply going up due to a natural rise in the costs of goods and services (e.g. the cost of electricity tends to go up over time). Others reflect the age of our community. For example, as trees mature, they fall and have to be removed or pipes break, leak water, and have to be repaired.
For 2021, we made the following budget adjustments:
- Bumped our landscaping budget up to $17,500. This reflects an increase in the hourly rate of labor for unplanned needs–tree down, broken pipe, etc. It also reflects a trend upward in the need for those unplanned landscaping services.
- Bumped our irrigation budget to $840. This reflects a trend upward in unplanned irrigation system repairs.
- Bumped our electricity up to $5,800. This reflects a trend upward in the cost of electricity. This pays for the waterfall pump, entrance lighting, and some street lights in the community (those installed after the community was built). Note other street lights–those installed when the community was being built–are funded by a $3.25 charge to each owner’s individual electricity bill (listed as subdivision lighting).
- Bumped our management budget to $8,832. This reflects an increase in the fees charged by the management company. Note this is the first management fee increase in the 18 year history of the community. It reflects an increase in their cost of doing business.
We can’t predict all of our expenses perfectly each year, so we build in some overhead into the budget items of things that have historically had some unpredictability. We try to estimate the life of things and then spread the cost of repair or resolution over a number of years. In good years, this builds funds. In bad, we draw from those to avoid a special assessment. It ebbs and flows, as you might expect from managing your home and vehicle upkeep and repairs.
Over the years, the board has worked to help avoid the need to increase our assessments. We know folks desire consistency so they can plan their own budgets. We’ve volunteered to do work in the community, at no charge, rather than pay someone to do it (e.g. paint street sign posts, apply mulch in the park, repair the picnic tables and play area equipment, perform electrical repairs, replace failed pumps in the waterfall, replace broken sprinkler heads, etc.). We also carefully evaluate the cost of the things we do hire folks to do. For example, we check the rates of local pine straw service companies to find the best rate before each of two yearly pine straw applications. Doing so, we’re often able to beat the budgeted rate of $6.80 per bale (installed). In some years, such as when we needed the $6000 water line replacement at the front entrance, we’ve had the pine straw painted during the fall/winter application to help save money and avoid exceeding our overall budget.
We’ve absorbed, with a lot of elbow grease, and managed all that we can. In 2021, we’ll do our best to continue this. You should expect an increase in our assessment for the 2022 budget year (will be mailed in December 2021). We’ll review our budget and actuals in the fall and determine, at that time, what the new assessment should be. It is hard to say exactly what that will be at the moment, but something in the neighborhood of a $20 increase isn’t out of the question. Please consider this as you plan your budget for 2022.