At the July 8 Board Meeting, the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) will present their recommendation to move in 2021 to a single dues structure where all residents will pay the same dues and have access to the pool and tennis facilities. There will be time allotted at the Board meeting for community questions and comments and the Board is prepared to vote on the recommendation. The reason for implementation in 2021 is to allow ample planning time for both for Blue Ridge operations and for residents.
When I first came on the Board as treasurer almost 6 years ago, the Board was already contemplating this initiative so a final conclusion has been a long time coming. Back then, the two major drivers were that we were not funding the long term maintenance and replacement of our assets adequately and that there was a belief that all residents own and benefit from the facilities and properties with an obligation to pay for them. As a first step, we opted to build up our reserves and to establish an annual contribution for long term maintenance that was funded by everyone through the basic CM dues. The LRPC was established to review the annual reserve study and make a recommendation regarding the reserve contribution and the annual maintenance projects. The budget is now structured so that the goal of CM+ dues for the pool and tennis facilities is to pay for their operating costs but it remains a difficult proposition to do this precisely given our business model.
Over a year ago, the Board charged the committee with the second step: to investigate the implications of moving to single dues and to make a recommendation. Although I wasn’t formally part of the committee, I participated in the process. The group analyzed our cost structure, conducted a survey that was highly informative and held two “town hall” community discussions that definitely gave me a full understanding of the differing perspectives on the issue. I can tell you that my views vacillated a bit and evolved during the process.
I hope you have had a chance to read the full proposal which has been emailed to the community and is also outlined further down in this Bulletin. At this point, I favor the proposal but my primary reasons to support it have changed over the last few months.
First, I understand the different philosophical views. The survey revealed that about 45% of the community feels that they should not have to pay for something that they don’t use while the rest feel that everyone should share in the full costs and benefits of all of our assets. At the town halls, residents pointed out that we don’t “pay by use” for our other properties and parks and that the value of our homes are substantially greater because of them (about 20-25% comparatively). But the thing that put me over the edge on this overall point was impassioned commentaries by community members. The sentiment expressed was that we live in a very special and unique place in the city and that we are all one community. There shouldn’t be different in/out memberships and that we are all in this together.
Second, there is definitely sensitivity to the increased cost particularly for residents that may be on a fixed income and facing increased expenses all around. If single dues had been instituted this year, it would translate to a $350 (or $30/month) increase for those currently paying the base CM dues. While the exact amount for 2021 is yet to be determined, the relative difference seems manageable. And part of the proposal includes a provision to institute payment options (e.g. quarterly payments) to help with personal budgeting.
Finally, with my Board hat on, the management of one membership with one HOA dues amount is much simpler and easier. Budgeting is more predictable without the prospect of people opting in or out of CM+ membership and operational tasks and costs are reduced. There are other reasons for support of the proposal, but these are the essential ones for me.
This would be a big change for the neighborhood and our HOA. The current structure has been in place for 20+ years and going back through the history of Blue Ridge before 1998, dues payment was not even technically required so the resistance by some is easy to understand. In the end most on the LRPC feel that this change is in the best interest of the community in the long run.
Right now the plan is for the Board to vote on this at the July 8 meeting – it will be at the top of the agenda at 7:00pm. If you want your voice to be heard and considered, please come to the meeting and speak during the commentary period. If you are unable to attend, send your comments or questions in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. All written comments will be summarized for the Board. We will discuss all sides of this issue before the formal vote.