Sunday, August 2, 2009

Where Does Our Money Go?

Previously we posted an overview of the FVCSA 2009 Operating Budget and a breakdown of expenses in the budget category called "administrative expense." In this post we will review "grounds & landscaping," the Association's biggest expense category. FVCSA expects to spend $1,058,124 for grounds and landscaping this year. The chart above shows where this money goes. You can click on the arrows at the bottom of the image to see the breakdown in a table of percentages. Click the box to the right of "Slide 1/2" to see the charts in a full-size window.

The landscape maintenance contract with Brickman is the Association's largest single expense. It makes up 56% of the grounds and landscaping category. The Board of Directors has asked Brickman to prepare a landscape master plan for our community. Having a long-term plan may help the Association spend its landscape dollars more wisely and limit or prevent increases in these costs. Once a plan is prepared, it will be reviewed by the Board and by the Landscape Committee. The Board will also seek input from the parcel committees and from any other interested residents.

With abundant rainfall this summer, irrigation expenses will probably be lower than budgeted. However, any savings may be offset by other costs. For example, nearly all of the amount budgeted for 2009 snow removal has already been spent. If we incur additional snow removal expenses in November or December, expenditures for the full year may exceed the amount budgeted. At 16% of this category, snow removal is a major expense. But we cannot control the winter weather, so it is a difficult cost to control. Our property managers obtained competing bids for the 2009 contract. The rates charged by our longtime contractor Shearer Penn were found to be quite competitive.The only other option to reduce this expense would be to provide a lower level of service that may not meet the expectations of many of our residents.

Trash removal costs are also a significant expense, taking 12% of this category. Some residents have suggested reducing this expense by having trash pickups once a week instead of twice. Signature discussed this with our trash removal contractor and found that reducing pickups would save only about $10,000 annually. That may seem surprising, but the explanation is simple: trash disposal costs are based on the volume of trash removed, not the frequency of pickups. Our contractor assumes we will continue to dispose of about the same amount of trash even if pickups are only once a week. However, the Board will discuss the idea when the 2010 budget is prepared to see if the community thinks the cost savings would be sufficient to justify the change.

We'll end this post by mentioning two smaller expenses. Landscape replacements and improvements are discretionary to some extent. If the community adopts a long-term master plan, these expenses could be controlled and may be reduced. On the other hand, tree maintenance costs are likely to remain a significant expense and may increase. We are fortunate to have something many communities don't — a large number of mature trees. But our beautiful trees need to be pruned, treated for pests and diseases, and removed when they die or become a safety hazard.

It is important to understand what it costs to run our community and how the Association spends the money that comes from the monthly maintenance fees we pay. This post is the last of our three-part series on the 2009 FVCSA operating budget. We hope these posts help our readers in the community understand where our money goes.


Anonymous said...

Saved snow removal expenses already been spent with no reserve for Nov & Dec 09 if needed? How spent and why? When Brickman took over, a three year plan was in place. The second year,2009, was designated as "the year of the winter pruning" - You cited this anticipated event in one of your blurbs in a late 2008 monthly bulletin. Closing in on 2010, the pruning has yet to take place. This expense was included in the 2008/9 landscaping budget. Where are those funds? Saved or spent like the "snow removal savings"? No mulching, no pruning, no nothing, save... save... Admirable concept.... In the real world, the community looks tired and worn. Come look over all of parcel 5-B, check out 387 in particular, and show me where the grass is, for a start! Then tell me how wonderful it all is. Brickman's sales pitch at contract time was that they would rejuvenate and refresh the look of the community. Another virtual event! I always pay for what it cost. This year, my maintenance fees are being wasted, not saved, Big Time! Jackie Marks,parcel 5,