The Highlands Ranch Community Association finance committee has approved what would be the largest assessment increase since 2003 if it is approved this November by the HRCA’s delegate body and board of directors.
The committee voted 8-2 at last week’s board working session — with unanimous, yet unofficial support, from the HRCA board of directors — to approve a budget that would increase assessments 6.3 percent, raising the bill for residents $32, or $2.67 per month, to $540 annually.
“Nobody likes to raise assessments, but if you look at this organization and where it is at in its life cycle, we have been scrubbing (the budget for) the last three years,” said board chairman Scott Lemmon. “We can’t continue to run this operation handcuffed. People come to Highlands Ranch and spend a lot of money on houses and they do that because of what we give them.
“I am afraid if we don’t do an assessment increase of this scale we will be woefully behind, more behind than we are today. We can’t just keep fixing things. We need to start saving for our capital improvements.”
Finance committee chairman and board member Jeff Suntken said he would have liked to have seen a larger increase in order to meet the needs of the community and stated there was a lot of compromise in agreeing on the proposed budget.
One of those compromises was agreeing not to hire any new staff with assessment dollars in 2014. Another was creating a $250,000 capital improvement fund to support the five-year plan, rather than opening the fund with $500,000 instead.
“If I am still in this position next year, and I may not be, I will probably fight for another assessment increase,” Suntken said. “We have been maintaining for far too long. We need to start improving.”
HRCA controller Harry Daughters presented the proposed budget at the Oct. 7 board working session prior to the finance committee voting on it, and said he expects to see decreases in general insurance rates and bad debt provisions, as well as in printing and postage costs due to changes the organization has made in switching over to e-billing.
Utility usage is expected to decline due to the implementation of the energy savings initiative, but the organization is still bracing for expected increases in natural gas prices, electricity costs and water costs. They hope to offset some of those costs with a slight reduction in operating hours at some of the recreation centers on weekends.
Also of note, staff salary increases are proposed at 3 percent and insurance costs are expected to go up 5.1 percent.
The budget is scheduled to be discussed with the delegate body Oct. 15 at the monthly delegate meeting and will be voted on in November. The proposed budget is available in its entirety at www.hrcaonline.org.