Monday, August 29, 2005

Back on Track---Fight The Power, Part II

Our association budget seemed like the pretty standard condo budget. Water bills here, gas bill there---that type of thing. Yet upon closer inspection it seemed like a few line items were out of hand.

The number one item that caught my attention was the fact that we were paying over $5,000 a year in lawn and building maintenance.


Quite frankly when we have able bodied people living on the premises, why would we pay over $400 a month for someone to come in and cut the lawn, shovel the snow and clean the hallways? That’s just throwing money away.

I took the responsibility to draw up a workable maintenance plan starting with the month of May.

Trust me, our membership was not exactly happy with the prospect of having to get out and perform the sweat equity home ownership requires. After all when most people think of condominium living they don’t think of having to mop the hallways and cut the grass. Unfortunately we didn’t have room for such luxuries with operating margins running so thin.

Only about half of the unit owners responded to the call, the other half---had, oh how shall I put this, “other commitments?”

Next up on the budget hit parade was the cost of insurance.

Our rates had risen sharply since the 9/11 tragedy and were now topping out at around $12,000 a year. Our policy was up for renewal July 1st and I suggested that we start shopping around for a better rate. I mean, how will we know if we’re getting the best price if we’re not shopping around. Just so you know this is the insurance our association has had since before the first elected board took over in 2002. In short, this is the insurance company that our evil developer initially purchased. Naturally we had reason to be suspicious of this setup.

The minute our insurance company got wind that we were looking around, they came back with a quote $3,000 less than last year’s rate. That would firmly put us below the $10,000 mark with our insurance which was a significant savings.

We also applied for a refuse rebate program run by the city that would reimburse us up to $75 per unit or the cost of an entire year’s trash bill, whichever one was lower.

By now you’re getting my drift, we cut the fat were we could and tried to find “hidden revenue” such as the refuse rebate. I knew and subsequently told everyone that 2005 and 2006 were going to be the “tough” years. The years where we would find out how bad it truly was, find a way to fix whatever the problems were and get back on track. People didn’t quite seem to understand the consequences of those words until we attempted to tackle our first capital project---our crumbling back porches.

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