Westchase Community Association Vice President Joaquin Arrillaga hosted about 15 voting members at the annual VM Budget Workshop on August 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 owners must pay each year.
Forty-one percent of the budget is dedicated to the operation of the WCA; 45 percent to operate swimming and tennis facilities; and the remaining 14% funds allocations to reserves, according to Sells. The WCA has been over budget in five of the last seven years and over budget in the remaining two years.
The biggest challenge the WCA board faced in developing the budget was an 18% increase in projected replacement costs of existing assets due to an increase in the cost of goods, said Sells. This necessitated an increase in reserve requirements in the amount of $350,000 which must be funded over the remaining life of these assets.
The WCA Board of Directors approved the use of surplus funds to help cover a portion of the reserve increase, an increase in restricted funds, and unbudgeted expenses arising from Master Plan Committee projects. In total, Sells said, this move will take about $248,000 from current surplus funds, if approved. This would leave an excess fund balance of approximately $117,000. This use of excess funds allowed the board to reduce the proposed annual assessment by $33, Sells explained.
Property manager Debbie Sainz then took the floor to present the proposed budget line by line to the voting members. She said the majority of the figures included in the budget were based on last year’s or 18-month averages, then adjusted for any notable differences expected.
Turning to revenue first, Sainz said the main source of revenue is the annual appraisals of Westchase’s 3,514 homes, which total more than $1 million. Additional revenue comes from summer camp programs; rental of tennis courts, swimming pools and activity rooms; and violations, fines and late fees.
Moving on to administrative expenses, Sainz shared that the management and accounting fee line item accounts for a 3% annual salary increase, which only affects community staff, not Greenacre Properties.
Regarding the slight year-over-year decrease in the amount budgeted for postage and reproduction costs, Sainz said there will be no amendments to the Statement of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. (CCR) in 2023. This negates the need for some of the printing and postage that was used this year.
One of the voting members asked why the proposed budget for 2023 only allocated $12,592 for a full year of web and IT costs when actual year-to-date 2022 expenses were $16,903 as of 30 June. Sainz explained that the 2022 expenses included $13,500 for the new WCA website, which was a one-time expense.
Sainz went on to describe other administrative expenses, including WCA events and celebrations (movies and concerts in the park, etc.); Hospitality committee and other committee expenses; and legal fees, both general and specifically related to violations.
As for insurance costs, Sainz said, they typically anticipate an annual rate increase of 10% across the board, resulting in a proposed total cost of $64,245 for the coming year.
The payroll for swimming and tennis facilities reflects a starting wage increase of $14 per hour for lifeguards. In 2023, they hope the pool slide will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week for ten weeks in the summer, and the WCA has provided an additional lifeguard position to cover those hours.
Under the post for pool supplies, Sainz shared that they switched from chlorine tablets to liquid chlorine in early 2022. This change made it difficult to budget for the current year as they were unsure the actual use and the corresponding costs. be. They focused on year-to-date spending through June 30 of this year and doubled it, bringing the proposed total for 2023 to $25,208.
A voting member questioned the amount of grounds maintenance for swimming and tennis facilities. Actual year-to-date expenses to June 30 are only $900 and $7,300 has been budgeted for all of 2023. Sainz said CDD pays Davey for these services and WCA reimburses CDD . The majority of these services occur in the latter part of the year, she said, which explains the apparent disparity.
The council estimated that utilities for swimming and tennis facilities would increase by an average of ten per cent. Sainz said that during the budget preparation process, she discovered that WCA had been overcharged by TECO. The company agreed to correct its error, which is reflected in the proposed amount for electricity in 2023.
Unlike electricity costs, garbage removal expenses since the start of 2022 have been well below what was budgeted. Waste Management had raised its rates by eight to 10 percent each March, so Sainz said when the county’s contract with them was being negotiated, they contacted Republic Services for a quote. This quote was significantly lower than that of Waste Management. WCA now pays $192 per month to the Countryway facility, as opposed to the $600 per month it paid Waste Management.
When Sainz finished going through each post, she shared that the proposed budget for 2023 will require homeowners to pay an annual assessment of $321, an increase of $19 from 2022.
Sells reminded voting members that had the WCA Board of Directors not agreed to use surplus funds to fund certain required expenses, the assessment would have been $354. Although the valuation has varied over the years, he said the proposed amount of $321 is equal to the rate assessed ten years ago.
Arrillaga then explained that voting members either tacitly approve the proposed budget by doing nothing, or they have thirty days to challenge it by asking the WCA president to call a special meeting. He also said 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 spending money to reduce the valuation.
The board will vote on the budget at its next meeting on Thursday, September 8.
By Lynn Gonzalez