Now more than ever it is important for folks in Seven Lakes West to make their voices heard and vote on the annual budget.
With much commotion between the board and the residents, debates have begun regarding the proposed budget increases with many in disagreement of the amount of the increase as well as how the funds are budgeted.
“After a 15% increase in HOA dues last year, they are proposing an additional increase of 10% this year,” said former Treasurer Mercedes Herdrich. “On top of the dues increase, there is a 70% increase in fees! This is a huge financial burden on some of our families and fails to take into account the reality of the economic situation of the present day.”
Mercedes isn’t the only one who believes the budget’s increase is uncalled for. Debates between the Board and community members have been ongoing since the 2021 budget was introduced.
While many are in disagreement with the budget, the budget will continue to pass unless there is a majority vote against it. That’s 50% of all lot owners – whether they reside within the community or not.
What’s particularly unusual about the budget is the increase in community fees. While raising dues may allow them to be more comparable to dues in other similar private communities, some believe the Board is raising fees in order to raise more funds.
“My problem with the budget is the lack of transparency more than what’s in it,” said one resident. “This concept of increasing the fees on certain things – that again seems to be just a way of trying to push the burden somewhere else and let someone else pay for things. It doesn’t seem fair.”
According to said resident, the community should not be charging more to a single segment of the population that happens to do one thing, such as owning a boat, and have that become “a profit-making operation to subsidize the rest of the community.”
According to Mercedes, the Board’s raise in fees will be used to cover “an increase in operating expenses of roughly $177,000, including increasing Security costs by $120,000 and Administrative costs by $79,000 (now a whopping $651,000) while adding $910,000 to Reserves.”
Despite the complaints to the Board, it is unlikely that the budget will change. The only way to stop the budget from passing is to have a majority vote against it. Non-votes are counted in agreement with the budget.
“It is obvious this budget was done with a very different approach than in previous years,” Mercedes explained. “It fails to apply sound budgeting methods (e.g., zero based budgeting, incremental budgeting, etc.) but appears to have instead automatically ‘OK’d’ all desired expenditures.”
Fire Chief Mike St. Onge of Eagle Springs Fire Department (and long-time resident of Seven Lakes West) also disagrees with some of the increases.
“There is a lot I don’t necessarily agree with. Having [nearly $120k] just in security upgrades is a little high in one year,” he said. “Seems to me, unless there is justification that the crime rate is sky-high, why spend that much in excess of what is already allocated?”
Chief St. Onge went on to explain that with the increase, the community could almost purchase a police car and pay an officer to be on shift riding around the West Side.
This is only one of the areas where the Board has created an increase in the budget, leaving residents to wonder what the justification is for such an increase.
“It seems we are throwing money at a problem instead of identifying the most cost-effective way to resolve the issue,” Mercedes said.