02 Oct

At the October 2023 board meeting for the village, you will vote to potentially raise the HOA fees. 

Don't get me wrong, I am not opposed to having a higher HOA fee. I agree that we are blessed to have it lower than most HOA's. Although those days are gone. If we want pristine grounds and amenities,  we should be willing to pay more than we currently are.  I would hope that by raising the fees, it would give the board the money to bring the village roads, pools, dams and fishing back to an acceptable condition. Our facilities are in desperate need of repair. I think that having more funds in our budget would help. It also affects our property values.

Homeowners are one thing, but, what do the lot owners get for the extra money they are being asked to pay? The fishing is terrible, we haven't stocked the lakes in years. Weed growth in the lakes is becoming an issue. Pool buildings need a face-lift, roads are horrendous and that's pretty much all you get as a lot owner. You can't even build on your property. So  it's no wonder why no wants to buy a lot here and everyone else wants to unload theirs.

We need some creative ideas to encourage growth in the lot owner arena. Some fresh ideas to encourage people to buy lots here. People seem to forget that future budget funds are also dependent on lot fees. Not just homeowners fees.

I believe it is going to be a hard sell to try and convince lot owners to vote for an increase.

So what is my issue? 

This was the Facebook notification sent by board member Tom Presley.

"We will also conduct an emergency assessment vote so that we can continue to operate effectively in 2024, 25 and 26."  "Based on our current budgets we will likely have a significant budget shortfall in 2024 & future. As many of you know we have been running on 2019 budgets.  The result is that without the proposed increase, paving, snow removal, pools, and our dumpsters are in jeopardy."             

Are they really in jeopardy? 

$1,500 increase for trash? Okay...that's $15 more per homeowner. That's a far far cry from being in jeopardy. Just add it to the homeowners fees per year.

Snow removal... now there's a phrase that illicits fear in the villagers! 

If we have a maintenance man, which we do... and the equipment, which we do... then why are we in jepardy of losing it? We are not going to have to farm it out this year.

Pools budget going up $1,000... Again that doesn't add up to more than a couple of dollars per lot owner and homeowner.

I've read the budget and am not so sure it is really the end of the world for Lake Helmerich as is being insinuated.

Resorting to Fear Tactics? Really?

Instead, try saying, "Here is a list of comparable HOA fees Nationwide. Here's what we could have if we had a better budget." But instead, the HOA has decided to push the "It's an emergency! Cost of living, doomsday" narrative.

Jul 18, 2022 — Typical HOA membership fees for single-family homeowners in a Gated community is $200-$300/month.

Monthly HOA fees average $170, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey estimates. 

Just be honest. It really is well past time and we need to raise the fees. We've had low fees for so long, it now shows in the condition of our village. But don't try to push an "All is lost" narrative in a hope that villagers will vote yes because you arbitrarily say, "The sky is falling."

I know that this may make some residents mad. Some want to have all the benefits of a private, lakefront community without having to pay for it. And the current condition of Lake Helmerich shows it. But God help you if you try to discuss the issue, the common retort is, "This ain't Christmas Lake Village." 

Past boards have all had pushback when the subject was raised, always shutting down any notion of raising fees, leaving them no choice but to do their very best with the budget they had.

In the last few years under the old management, the board was able to put surplus money aside and still be within budget without compromising on repairs. They even upgraded aging equipment without breaking the bank. They showed it was feasible to properly manage Lake Helmerich on a set budget, and still be able to put money aside for future improvements. 

In 2022 during the end-of-year meeting, Ryan Hilsmeyer advised villagers that $50,000 had been saved and earmarked for the 2023 road paving fund. That, along with the current 2023 paving budget of $50,000 would give the village the ability to put $100,000 towards needed road repairs. If memory serves, in 2021 there was around $30,000 surplus saved and added to the coffers. Now all of a sudden, we are asked for more money under the guise that all is not well.

In order to make it an easier pill to swallow, maybe the board should start with some obvious common sense savings first. This is one everybody that lives here has noticed. 

We are paying a current board member $20 an hour to mow. Most believe it is a waste of money. This board member was originally asked to mow during the interim period until a new maintenance man was found. Yet here he is still mowing? That money could be saved and given to the new maintenance man, who by the way,  is doing an amazing job. So why underpay our new maintenance supervisor with the same wage as a mower? 

The position of board member (is a Volunteer position) just like all the past board members. Why is he still being paid? 

This board member has also been tasked to... Supervise the maintenance supervisor... Yet he doesn't have the skills, nor, as we have seen in the past, does he have the temperament. 

The new maintenance supervisor Jim, has shown he has the knowledge to rebuild our neglected and jerry-rigged village. 

Per the last maintenance man's job description from 2022, he was being paid $47,000 per year. That included a $4,000 per year additional money given, graciously, to help with medical bills. He, on average, received $500 to $1500 every year as a bonus. That's about $52,000 per year or $25.00 per hour. 

And we're paying the new man less...

When you add on top of that $20 per hour the board member is making, it's no wonder our budget is off-kilter. 

Save the $20 an hour for the board member and give the new man the $5 an hour equal pay, and you're back in budget. 

I would question, how much money has the HOA spent on this board member this year alone. 

Included with your ballot you received the 2024 budget proposal.

Look closely at it. There is a difference of only $7,160 in disbursements from 2023 to 2024. How is that a major short fall in our budget? 

That alone does not justify raising the homeowner's rate of $200 more per year increase. 

Think about it.

100 homes x $200 = $20,000.  And that is homeowners fees alone.  From this year on.

$50 x 400 give or take lot owners = $20,000. From this year on.

That's a $40,000 shell out yearly to the HOA.  For a budget difference of only $7,160? Stop paying the board member, and voila, were back in budget.

Also, in the 2024 proposed budget section marked Upkeep, you will notice that in roads/maintenance and road paving/contractor, the board has decided to decrease those by $25,000. So we won't be spending the money on the roads that we had planned for.

Wait a minute... didn't we put the surplus money from 2022 into the road fund of $50,000?

From Lake'Helmeich Village November Membership Meeting Minutes November, 2022

Interest question as to where money for road fund was kept and interest ... Freedom bank money market- low rate - followup accuracy with Ryan as well as actual CD value in our emergency fund

$99K Road Fund Money Market Freedom Bank 

If you add in the 2023 budget of $50,000 we haven't used this current year... In theory, we should have had $100,000 worth of road improvements.

If you want to have a balanced budget, start with dumping this board members mowing costs.

Also, why the proposed increase in outside labor by $7,000 and new line item, Events for $4900?

Most villagers are not opposed to paying more per year in fees, but, show us that the extra money is being used wisely. 

So, am I getting a better, nicer, safer place to live? What are we getting for the money?

Certainly not new roads. Seems like we are just lining certain board members' pockets.

We would probably vote yes on the money, but not if you are sneaky and disingenuous or when you are a poor steward of our money. And just so you know...It already stinks of cronyism.