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What's the real cost?

What does it really cost to run Fairway Springs?

Fairway Springs is where we live. It is our neighborhood, our house is here. There are 406 homes that make up our neighborhood. It is well situated, surrounded by great amenities and well connected to major travel arteries. We call it home. But what does it cost to run?

Our current HOA Dues (The Annual Assessment) is $368 per home, per year. So, does it cost $368 x 406 homes? Does it cost $149,408 per year to run?

It's budgeting season for the community, so this question is relevant. By 30th August this year, at the annual budget meeting, your neighbors who sit on the Board will vote on a budget proposal that hopefully goes some way to answering that question.

It's not a simple answer though. There are a lot of moving parts and careful considerations, trade-off's even, involved in producing an annual budget. It's contentious too. Anytime that money or finances are involved, situations can get heated. Did you ever vacation with that group of friends who earned more than you and they always wanted to eat at the finer dining establishments, and split the bill equally amongst the group, so your cup of soup, crackers and glass of water subsidized their filet steaks and bottles of wine?

That's how Fairway Springs is set up. There is no distinction inside of our neighborhood. Costs are equally shared across all homes. What one pays all pay. At least with regards to the annual assessments. (Of course, Pond Lot owners and boundary fence Lot owners do pay more, because they have the additional, personal obligations to maintain their ponds, seawalls, fences and so on, in line with governing rules, but where boundary fence management is governed by our FSHA Deed Restrictions, pond management is not. - anyway, enough digression). The costs incurred by the HOA are shared equally. Every one of 406 homes pays the same.

Back to the question, what does it cost to run our neighborhood? Before we can answer that accurately we have to define the word "run" [Editor's note - get to the point]. [Author's response - I'm getting there but I told you there's a lot of moving parts].

As a homeowner inside Fairway Springs neighborhood, you are immediately a member of the Fairway Springs Homeowner's Association (FSHOA) . (If you rent, your landlord is). That is, you, as a homeowner have a part share in everything that the Association owns. Pool? Pool Deck? Outdoor shower? Pool furniture? Umbrellas? Clubhouse? Clubhouse furniture? Oven? Microwave? Fridge? Yep, you are a part owner (1/406th) of it all. Cool right? Yes. Way cool. All those amenities are yours to be shared with 405 other homeowners and their immediate families and tenants. Many neighborhoods don't offer what you have, so it's even cooler still when you consider what you have available to you.

The downside to owning things, even shares in things, is that they cost money to "run". That is they need money to operate, manage, clean, maintain, repair and replace. Buying a thing is one cost, but the operation, management, cleaning, maintaining, repairing and replacing all carry costs to. That is what is meant by "run". It's no different than your home. You bought that but the costs didn't stop with the acquisition, no; You still have to insure it, heat it, cool it, light it, clean it, maintain the yards around it, update it, and so on, right? It's like the old iceberg image.

Now, let me ask you a question. Do you do all the work yourself or do you pay for someone to do it? Perhaps, to keep costs down, you mow your own lawn, fix your own sprinklers, trim your own trees, clean each room of your house by yourself. Is the annual cost of running your home the same as your neighbor's, in the identical floor plan home, who chooses to employ the services of a cleaner twice a week, a yard crew, sprinkler guy and arborist? No, of course not.

All the work still needs doing, it's just a matter of whether it's being done for no cost other than your time, or for money. When asking the question, "what does it REALLY cost to run Fairway Springs?", we are really asking, if 100% of the things that need doing are paid for, rather than provided by volunteers, or you, what is that cost?

Here's an example: If you or your child defile(s) a bathroom and you don't have the common decency to clean up afterwards, we'll have to take on the cost of a cleaner. To clean a toilet. One time. But we'll never know when you will be doing your defiling, so the cleaner will have to be present at all times. That's going to carry a much higher cost. You'll get hit with your 1/406th of it, but so will 405 of your neighbors.

Here's another, if you don't pay your dues, we have to hire an attorney to collect the money that you promised you would pay. Same with fines (by the way, stop getting fined, we don't like it and you don't like it - just maintain your property for goodness sake). That's a cost.

Another, our boundary landscaping along 54, has long been neglected. So long in fact that it was forgotten and over time dropped off the annual budget. That's something we need to pay for, but haven't been. We did start some corrections, especially around our front entrance, last year, but there's more to do.

A follow on from that landscaping example is the area of trees behind the clubhouse and pool. Nature is a wonderful thing but it is encroaching on our pool area and clubhouse roof. It needs to be regularly managed, maintained and cut back with underbrush cleared for fire and other safety reasons. That's not an area that I've ever seen budgeted for in my time here. It's work that needs to be done and it needs to be paid for.

A final example, related to the encroaching trees, is about our pool and deck. With trees so close the natural shedding of leaves, and following storms, twigs and branches, creates a mess both in the pool and on the pool deck. Would we homeowners like to sweep and skim if we are the first to the pool every day? If so, no cost. If we would rather it was pristine when we get there, we'll need to pay someone to do the work before our arrival. There are a lot more examples.

40 years ago when this neighborhood was in its infancy, more homeowners were available to do work around the neighborhood. It was new so required less expenditure. Now, more homeowners work, we have less free time and what we own is aging with higher costs of every product and service we need.

That's what this budgeting season is dedicated to. Identifying the real cost to run our beautiful oasis, our home, Fairway Springs.

Hopefully we'll see you all at 4pm on Saturday at the 40th Birthday Bash Carnival. We look forward to seeing old and young, new and long standing residents. You can still help out, too.

As always, to stay up to date on everything going on at Fairway Springs please use the variety of channels here.

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