Tuesday, October 16, 2012

FVCSA Election: We've Got Questions (#3)

It's election time in Princeton Landing and some members of the Board will be running again. You may remember that one of the promises these same candidates made in previous elections was that there would be more "transparency" and better communication about Association business. Residents were going to be better informed than they had been in the past. This "transparency" has turned out to be more opaque than expected, raising questions we'd like to ask the candidates. Here's the third one.

Where does FVCSA stand financially? Frankly, we're finding it hard to tell. The August newsletter included the only Treasurer's Report the Association has published so far this year. It is not very informative. It starts with a long statement about the complexity of Princeton Landing and its relationships to the world around it. The "report" then describes three financial objectives—reduce costs, anticipate capital outlays, improve return on investment—and says that the community's investment goals are to reduce risk and increase return. All that is fine. It's also fairly obvious. What's missing is specific information and thoughtful analysis. How are we doing so far compared to what we expected in our budget for 2012? What does the Board plan to do to reduce costs? What costs are rising or hard to control? What capital outlays are anticipated, and when? Are capital reserves expected to cover these outlays, or are special assessments likely?

The last paragraph of the "report" is truly mystifying. It starts with a grand statement about the impact of the "global economic downturn." This is a community newsletter, not The Wall Street Journal, so what is the writer trying to say? Is this a roundabout way of telling us that the Association's investment portfolio has lost value? We don't know—the "report" includes no numbers!

We could dismiss the August newsletter as harmless puffery if details about FVCSA's finances were readily available elsewhere. However, when it comes to finances, Princeton Landing seems to have become an information-free zone. As we've noted in a previous post, there is little financial data available to residents on the FVCSA website. If the Board is providing information at its monthly public meeting, there is little record of that happening. The few mentions of FVCSA finances that do appear in this year's Board minutes provide even less information than the newsletter.

We are all members of FVCSA. We pay several thousand dollars each year in maintenance fees. Many of us have run businesses or managed budgets in our daily work, and all of us handle household budgets. We know something about financial plans and we know how to read financial statements. For many of us, our home is our biggest asset, and we are concerned about what the Board is doing to protect our investment. We need more than high-minded generalities. It's election time, but we can't evaluate how the Board has handled our community's finances this year without real information. Why isn't that information being provided to us regularly? Why should the burden be on us to go find it on our own? Whatever happened to "transparency" and better communication?