Letter to the Unit Members, December 2012
Dear SSCA Members:
The Stepping Stone Condominium Association Board would like to thank you for your membership and give you a detailed update of our actions and plans for 2013.
We held our Annual Meeting on 15 November 2012 in the Clubhouse. We had about 20 members join us, which is substantially fewer than we would like, but for those that made the effort we are grateful, and we really enjoyed the information and discussion all of you shared with us. We also will do everything we can to utilize your information and suggestions and hope you continue to help us make Stepping Stone the best community it can be. The presentation for the Annual Meeting has been uploaded on our web page below.
One point that we would like to raise for all members, please do not use your fireplaces/ chimneys without having a chimney sweep clean them out and certify they are safe to use. In conjoined units, if one unit were to have a fire, the whole building would be affected. If you plan to use your fireplace this winter, please get it checked out. We have listed several chimney sweeps on the website.
We were hoping to include nominations for the board with this mailing, but we did not receive any. We will be seeking to appoint members to the board as soon as possible to fill vacant seats. If you are interested please let us know. Again, three of us are due to rotate off the board at the end of next year and we will need board members to step into our seats.
For those of you who were not at the meeting, we are struggling to meet escalating bills with fees which have not been raised since 2005. It was also announced on December 11th that Huntsville Utilities is raising water fees by $9 per customer. Because of significant rises in insurance, utilities, grounds upkeep and garbage pickup, our ability to budget an acceptable amount for maintenance has dropped significantly from last year. Also, we have utilized all of the monies from the 2010 special assessment and some of our savings, resulting in a much lower reserve which we do not want to diminish further. We also are making a determined effort to avoid special assessments. We feel large special assessments, expected in a short time, are harder on a family/ home budget than a much lower amount over a period of time. If we bring in a monthly amount that covers all of our bills and maintenance and provides a reserve for annual big ticket repairs and maintenance, we can hopefully avoid another assessment in the foreseeable future.
In order to have monies to pay monthly bills and still cover regular and emergency maintenance costs we will have to raise membership fees to cover about $30,000 annually to maintain Stepping Stone and try to keep up with expected wear and tear, much less get ahead of the deterioration of buildings that are over 30 years old. Where we should have around $40,000 in the General Maintenance Budget, we only have $1,310. In the last couple of years, we have determined that about $40,000 will cover nearly all expected and unexpected maintenance costs in a year, so we will need to raise monthly fees to a point that will bring our annual budget up to that amount.
Because we would like everyone to have time to prepare their budgets for the additional expense, we will not assess the new fee schedule until 1 April 2013. We have calculated a size prorated fee which escalates the amount paid depending on the size unit you own. Please see the schedule below.
As of 1 April, if you now pay $95 you will then pay $115, now pay $124 then will pay $150, now pay $139 then will pay $168, and now pay $158, then will pay $190. It is our intention that this covers us for an acceptable number of years to come.
In another effort to cut costs, the board is going to move our information/ communications with membership to email as much as possible. Please access the website page identified below to indicate whether you would opt for email communications or hard copy communications. If you opt for email, please provide an email address where all correspondence will be sent. We understand that some people do not choose to use computers and we will continue to give you information by mail, but because of the rising costs, we prefer to send documents by email. We plan to begin our email communications in January, so please provide us with your choice of communications by 31 December 2012.
EMAIL OPTION FORM FOR SSCA COMMUNICATIONS:
We are also working to get our administrative house in order. In January/ February we will begin the process of auditing all of our unit/ owner information and determining who has not filed proper/ required paperwork or information with us on the required annual basis or when new ownership or renters move-in. Members will receive a checklist similar to the one below which identifies your unit and what we have or don’t have on file. You will have one month to bring your file up to date, then penalties or fees will be assessed. We continue to find, especially with people who live off the property, that mailing information, renters, leases, etc. are not kept up to date. This is our effort to have that information on hand and current. We are giving all unit owners a grace period of one month after receiving the audit to get us anything that is missing. At that time, penalties and fees will be assessed and expected with your next monthly fee payment along with your missing information. Fees and penalties will be assessed for each additional month that information is not received. If fees and payment and information are not received by the third month, foreclosure action will be taken.