Florida Rising Magazine DEC 2015 Edition - Page 38

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ASSOCIATION BUDGETING FOR DUMMIES

by Steven J. Weil, PhD, EA, LCAM, Royale Management Services, Inc.

A “dummie,” in this case, is a first-time association member and/or someone with little or no association budgeting experience who wants to know more about how and why the budget is created before they vote on it.

Is it really necessary to go through all that work year after year?

The first answer is, yes, because it’s the law. Florida law (718.112 (2) (f) 2) requires that annual budgets be prepared and, further, that reserve calculations be made by using a formula that estimates useful life and replacement cost.

The real answer is that the budget is a tool used by the association’s board to determine how much owners will be required to pay in maintenance costs for the coming year in order to keep the association financially stable.

The budget is a financial plan, a guide; but the process is an art, not a science. That’s why it’s important to leave room for unplanned expenses. A shortfall may result in an assessment, which will not make anyone happy. The only thing owners hate more than a maintenance fee increase is a special assessment that is necessary because the budget does not adequately cover the ongoing operating and maintenance costs. The tricky part of the process is to balance what is required with the often competing interests of those who want the lowest possible increase with those who are willing to pay more for better services, better amenities or other improvements.

There are two parts to every budget: the operating budget and the reserve budget.

The operating budget should include all the necessary regular and recurring expenses that are expected in the coming year, no matter how small, such as repairs, maintenance, payroll, utilities, supplies, insurance and administrative costs.

The reserves are designed to accumulate funds for major ongoing repair and replacement.

Statutes make it mandatory that reserve budgets first include estimated expenditures for roof replacement, building painting and pavement resurfacing at a minimum.

Aside from what the law requires, a good reserve budget also covers other large capital items that will wear out and need to be replaced over the life of the association, such as: elevators, windows, common area air conditioners, docks, generators, et al.

Projected estimates take into consideration the cost to replace each item, prorated over the years of its estimated life. A common mistake in estimating this value is the failure to take into account the rise in replacement costs that occurs over time.

Reserve funds cannot be used for purposes other than those intended without a majority owner’s vote of approval in advance.