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In January 2014 members were informed on their WRA water bills that payments are to go to the WRA office or Post Office box. Sallal is no longer performing the billing or accepting payments. This has also been posted on the WRA website, covered in the newsletter and discussed on the Wilderness Rim Facebook page.
The practice for sending shut-off notices for the last few years has been to allow members who reside in their WRA homes to receive a full six months of water service without payment before their accounts were provided with a shut-off notice. Since the WRA office has recently resumed the billing duties for the WRA Water System, WRA followed this same process for the late notices provided to members in March (2014).
Notices posted in the fourth week of March were for accounts unpaid since the November 30, 2013 billing. The billing for January 31, 2014 had also not been paid on time, and late notices were sent out on March 16 with instructions to pay by March 25 to the WRA office to avoid service interruption. These accounts had not paid for four months of billed water service and we were just a week away from billing for an additional two months. Members received water service for six months with no payments on the account.
It is the responsibility of each member to pay their water charges when due. Any member who is in need of consideration for special circumstances in regard to their bill is regularly encouraged in newsletters and on the WRA website to contact the office to make arrangements to ensure that their service is uninterrupted. When members do not respond to such notices and billings, WRA’s only option is to remind them that the water is not free and will be shut-off for non-payment.
A review of the WRA Rules and Regulations for the water operation clearly shows that accounts can be shut-off for non-payment after each billing cycle. Effective with the bills due on April 30, 2014 the WRA will begin to apply the rules properly to all accounts. Any account with past due charges (amounts dated prior to March 31) as of April 15, 2014 will receive a shut-off warning. A few days later any account still unpaid will be provided with a last notice of WRA’s intent to shut-off the water for continued non-payment.
Accounts with charges from the March reading still unpaid by the middle of May will receive similar notices. As a general rule, accounts not paid with-in forty-five days will be subject to shut-off.
WRA exercises as much latitude and consideration as possible for members who make a reasonable effort to pay their bills. Those who do not will have their water shut-off and the $100 fee to have the water turned on again will be assessed to their account. To have the water turned on the account balance will need to be paid in full including late fees and the $100 fee.
Further, members who are delinquent in their water account may be required to provide a deposit to be held against future charges in addition to bringing the account current. The account will be required to be kept current for a reasonable period of time before the deposit can be refunded.
Please contact the office at any time that your water bill is going to be paid late. WRA does not want to shut-off any member’s water. Contact information for WRA is in every newsletter and billing that you receive. The office phone (425-888-0087) and email (office@WildernessRim.org) are the best ways to contact WRA when the office is not staffed.
We own this business together, but the business can’t allow members to avoid responsibility for their water bills.
How many eggs did you spot in the park? Over 60 kids and 40 adults came with their baskets and enjoyed hot cocoa and s’mores together.
A HUGE THANK YOU to those who volunteered by stuffing eggs, making signs, inviting friends, stoking the fire, hiding the goodies, cleaning up, and doing so many other details to make this event happen!
Being in a neighborhood with such fun, caring people makes living here truly remarkable.
Q: What does the Annual Meeting budget line item include?
A: The Annual meeting line item for the current budget includes all costs for the annual meeting, printing, mailing, food, sound system, ballots etc. The only thing not included would be an allocation of Suzanne’s wages for the time she will spend on preparing for the meeting.
Q: Why do we have Bank Charges Expense?
A: The bank charges us every time someone bounces a check or for extra services. We recover the cost of bounced fees by charging a typical NSF fee to members.
Q: Depreciation Expense… what is this?
A: Capital purchases (water system, equipment, buildings etc.) are generally listed as an asset on the Balance Sheet rather than expensed in full when purchased. Businesses use the concept of allocating that cost over the useful life of the asset as an expense—which is recorded as Depreciation. This useful life can be as short as three years and as long as forty years or more depending on the kind of asset. It is not a cash expense in the current year.
Q: Legal Fees – Is this from changing the water billing contract?
A: No, there has been no legal expense in regard to removing the water billing from the contract with Sallal. We have an attorney whose job is to help our volunteer Board be sure to make good contracts, guide us in business decisions and to review our Bylaw amendments each year among the other things attorneys do. We have been sued or have had to sue others over the years. Last year we had a mostly new Board and we had a number of things come up. An example is that PSE registered the easement they have on our greenbelt (from 2010 I think) on a member’s lot instead of ours. The attorney was involved in helping us determine how to address that. We had a question about whether trustees can take a leave of absence. So we budget for legal expenses and some years we don’t use it much and other years it is a bigger item. It is a hard one to plan for but we do the best we can.
Q: Communications/Newsletter- is this part of office supplies or is it staff?
A: We are required by the Bylaws to provide the membership with a printed newsletter six times a year. This is the printing cost. I hope we will be able to reduce that by getting a good laser printer in the office soon or going to an electronic newsletter.
Q: Park Maintenance Services—what is this?
A: Our contract for grounds maintenance was set at $1600 (plus $500 a month for extra services) a month in 2011 and 2012 until we changed to a different provider last winter. That entity went out of business this past summer and since then and currently we are not in a contract for grounds maintenance.
Q: As a suggestion, when the Chalet is used for non-board related meetings, why don’t you charge a rental fee that covers cost of cleaning, plus additional money that goes into a reserve to help pay for maintenance of the Chalet.
A: We charge a nominal fee for reserving the chalet. The members own the chalet. The reservation fee covers the administrative costs. We each pay assessment fees to cover the cost/maintenance of the assets. Yes, the reservation fee could be higher and in fact the board did just raise it from $10 a day to $25. If you feel strongly it should be changed come to the park committee meeting and we will listen to what you think or send a member concern form.
Q: Please send all future communications via email rather than USPS. I can see that a lot of money can be saved if everyone switches to this method.
A: You are correct, money can be saved, as well as time (which equates to money) and natural resources (trees, water etc.). With the upgrades to the website we are aware there are many ways we can use it to save on the cost of all of our communications. We need members to provide email addresses and be willing to agree to use electronic methods. Last spring we included a flyer with the newsletter asking members how they wanted to receive information. Over half of those who responded wanted paper. Our members have to support this kind of change by participating.
Should you have other questions, please email email@example.com.
The budget is ratified.
Total number of members:
"No" votes required to reject the budget:
Total number of ballots received:
Number of votes in favor of ratification:
Number of votes against ratification:
Number of ballots without a "Yes" or "No" vote:
Washington State Law
From: Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 64.38.025(3):
Within thirty days after adoption by the board of directors of any proposed regular or special budget of the association, the board shall set a date for a meeting of the owners to consider ratification of the budget not less than fourteen nor more than sixty days after mailing of the summary. Unless at that meeting the owners of a majority of the votes in the association are allocated or any larger percentage specified in the governing documents reject the budget, in person or by proxy, the budget is ratified, whether or not a quorum is present. In the event the proposed budget is rejected or the required notice is not given, the periodic budget last ratified by the owners shall be continued until such time as the owners ratify a subsequent budget proposed by the board of directors.
What the Law Means
From: WA State Community Associations Institute (http://blog.wscai.org/2013/08/27/budget-ratification-best-practices/)
At the budget ratification meeting, unless the budget adopted by the board is rejected by a vote of a majority of the total voting power of the association (or any larger percentage specified in the governing documents), the budget “is ratified.” In other words, the owners do not approve the budget—the budget is automatically approved unless it is rejected by a majority of the total voting power. Thus, if less than a majority of the total voting power is present in person or by proxy at the budget ratification meeting, it is legally impossible for the budget to be rejected and ratification is automatic.
Ballot Counting Procedure
- Ballots are received:
- By personally being deposited into the WRA Ballot Box,
- By USPS mail at the WRA PO Box 315, picked up by the Administrative Assistant and delivered to the WRA Office,
- By personal Drop Off into the WRA Office Mail Drop Box outside the Office door,
- All Ballots are deposited into the WRA Ballot Box prior to the close of voting at the Membership Meeting.
- The Ballot Box is kept in a secure location and the keys to the Ballot Box are entrusted to the secretary and/or locked in the Key Lock Box in the WRA Office.
- After the close of voting:
- All actions involving the Ballots will involve a minimum of two persons who have signed Confidentiality Forms,
- The Ballot Box is unlocked,
- The Ballots are removed from the Ballot Box,
- The Ballots are separated into two groups,
- Ballots with names, addresses, and/or lot numbers for identification, and
- Ballots without identification.
- The Ballots that can be identified are turned over to at least two persons who will verify the names on the outside of the Ballots with the Master Registration List.
- The WRA listing will be available by Lot Number / Account Number, and
- By Alpha listing – the alpha listing will serve as the master Registration List.
- Ballots that cannot be identified without opening will be turned over to at least two persons who will open each Ballot to determine what WRA member submitted the Ballot, if possible.
- These Ballot will be identified by member name and number, and
- Will be added to the Master Registration List.
- In the event that a clear and valid identification cannot be made the Ballot will be set aside as invalid.
- The Ballots will be opened and the identification portion will be removed and saved separately.
- The Voting portion of the Ballot will be separated into groups of 10 or 20 depending on the number of Ballots received and the complexity of the voting involved on the Ballot.
- Three persons will count each group of Ballots by individual item on that Ballot.
- Either by one person reading the results and another noting the responses,
- Or by one person reading the results and two others noting the responses,
- The roles of the persons counting the Ballots will then reverse and the count will be done again,
- If the counts are not in agreement in any one group of Ballots, the count will be repeated until an agreement on the votes is achieved,
When the counts are in agreement, the total of each item’s votes will be logged onto a Master Ballot Count Sheet.
- The Master Ballot Count Sheet will be verified by another group of counters.
Wilderness Rim Association oversees the Wilderness Rim water system, Cascade Park, the greenbelt, and the office. The volunteers who serve on your Board of Trustees give generously of their time, endeavoring to act in your best interests and to serve with honesty and integrity.
We would greatly appreciate your support.
Questions and answers regarding water concerns:
Was there something that happened with Sallal? Is it just to save money, and if so why are we doing this now and not waiting to do it at the regular meeting?
We are changing now (and not in July) because the contract with Sallal is renewed each January.
We are going back to handling our own billing to reduce costs, to have accurate accounting as requested by our CPA, and to provide office services here in the community.
How much money is being saved, and how?
We anticipate saving at least $10,000 per year by performing these tasks ourselves.
For example, our new budget for meter reading is less than $3,500 a year. With Sallal it would cost $7800.
How will we be hiring the new employees to make this happen?
We have hired a very capable office person, Suzanne Glazier, to do the billing and to handle member concerns and payments.
And how/who will ensure that they are trained appropriately?
Denny Scott, our water system operator, has been working with Wil Chromey, our new meter reader. The meters have already been read and the process went smoothly. Our existing billing software license includes support for Suzanne.
Is Sallal continuing to do maintenance?
We are only resuming accounting-related functions. Sallal will continue to be our water system operator. They will continue to monitor water quality and to maintain the system. Our water quality will not be affected.
A Response from the Department of Health
From: Ernie Henrie
Sent: Friday, February 7, 2014 2:32 PM
To: Wilderness Rim Association Office; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: Heads Up About Calls To WA Dept of Health
I just spoke with Brian Boyce of the Department of Health (in Kent) in regards to the water complaint. He indicated that the call he received was from an unidentified person with concerns about our service contract with Sallal. This person indicated that the contract was “no good” because of changes made to it by the WRA Board of Trustees. I advised Mr. Boyce that two changes were made to the contract, and the were as follows:
- Do the billing in-house, as advised by our auditor.
- Reading our own meters.
The remainder of the contract was left in tact, and that Sallal was still the Water System Operator and responsible for water quality.
Mr. Boyce indicated that WRA has done nothing wrong in making these changes and they would only get involved if water quality or system operations had problems. Mr. Boyce did speak highly of Sallal, and as far as they are concerned this matter is closed.
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The new budget has been approved by the Board of Trustees and a Special Meeting of the Membership has been called on February 15, 2014 for the purpose of ratifying it.
The following PowerPoint slides are part of Jessica Besso's Budget Q & A session on Saturday, February 2nd, 2014.
See the WRA Calendar for a second, identical, Budget Q & A session is scheduled for February 11th, 2014 at 7:30 pm at the Chalet.
Jessica's PowerPoint presentation contains a slide showing a Side-by-Side Analysis of Meter Reading and Billing Cost Savings. This slide contains financial information that is available to WRA members only.
To access the slide, you must be a registered website user. For details about how to register, please see How to Access Members-Only Posts
Q: What is the purpose of the budget?
A: The annual budget is a tool for the members and volunteer Board to use as a guideline to direct the Association's income and expenses. It is a way to communicate variances due to reality compared to expectations and hold the volunteer-run committees and membership accountable. It helps everyone plan for the future and prioritize funds as a planning tool and roadmap. The budget provides a control element in financial statements. The budget is used as a guide or “target” to help the homeowner association determine if it has under or over-estimated the amount of the expenditures. If significant deviations from the budget (the expectations of what the expenditures should be) occur, the Board of Trustees should try to determine the causes.
Q: What is a budget not meant to be?
A: A budget is NOT a mandate from the membership. Budgets help minimize the unexpected, but they cannot predict the future. No budget will perfectly align with actual activity, but the intent is to estimate as closely as possible.
Q: Why does a budget have to be balanced?
A: The money coming in and money going out must be equal. The Association cannot plan to spend more money than comes in (a deficit) nor plan to receive more than it spends (a surplus). As a not-for-profit corporation, the bottom line must equal zero.
Q: What happens if the actual money coming in or going out does not match the budget?
A: The Board should determine why there is a large variance and seek corrective measures if necessary. Many factors can cause a budget line item to be greater than or less than the actual amount. Again, a budget is just a working estimate or goal.
Q: What happens to money that is not spent?
A: The Board evaluates the financials on a quarterly basis and can allocate funds for reserves, capital improvements, repairs, or other future needs.
Q: Why did the WRA Board of Trustees call for a Special Meeting of the Membership to approve a new budget? Doesn't WRA already have a member-approved budget?
A: The members rejected the budget proposed at the July 2013 annual meeting.
RCW 64.38.025 requires that the corporation use the last budget approved which was the 2012-13 budget. The membership should have clear communication from the Board on financial matters, and the only way to do that is through a special meeting. Washington State law requires that any budget the Board adopts must be ratified by the membership. The Board wants the membership to be aware of the financial commitments it is making. The new budget reflects a better estimate of income and expenses and includes costs that have already been incurred that were not part of the budgets in prior years such as the reserve study and financial statement audit.
Q: How does this budget resolve the issues that led the membership to reject the previously proposed budget?
A: The budget is balanced, aligns more accurately with actual expenses, allocates funds to the reserve accounts from surcharge, and does not raise assessments.
Q: Why is WRA performing the billing and meter reading instead of Sallal? Was there something that happened with Sallal?
A: The renewal of our contract comes up every January. In the process of preparing for that renewal, it was decided that preparing the billing and meter reading is more cost-effective for the membership when performed by our own staff. Also the Board had been advised by the outside independent auditors and CPA who prepares the tax returns that the billing records should be in the control of WRA. Other benefits of moving the work in house include adherence to the WRA Water Regulations, better service to the membership with integration of assessment and water billing, and cost savings of $10,000-$15,000/year. Detailed analysis of the cost savings is available in the office or in the members-only area of the website.
Q: Are my water rates going to be impacted by this change with Sallal? How will my water bill be affected by the new budget?
A: The intent is to keep costs reasonable and reduce where possible. The water rate increase last fall is the basis of the revenue projections in the budget. Actual water consumption will determine actual revenue and whether or not expenses are covered. In dry years, more water is used and is a large variable affecting billing, and bottom line surplus or shortage. We currently do not anticipate any rate changes for the remainder of this calendar year at this time.
Q: Is Sallal continuing to do maintenance on the water system?
A: Yes, we are renewing the contract with Sallal Water Association for the Water System Operator, Denny Scott, for 2014.
Q: Will the billing be accurate? What about the meter readings?
A: The Association has employed an administrative assistant to handle all day-to-day office operations for some time, and now water billing will again be among the list of duties. The training for billing is included in the software license fee for the software that we own and used in the past. Meter reading is not a professional skill. The Association has retained the services of a competent meter reader who is supported by our Water System Operator through our contract with Sallal Water Association.
Q: What if the meter reader is ill? Is there a backup plan?
A: The readings do not have to be performed on particular days of the month. The Water Committee and Board of Trustees fully support this effort that saves the membership over $5,000 and will ensure that the meters are read in a timely and appropriate manner.
Q. What are the reserve funds?
A: The reserves were established decades ago for the purpose of repairing or making capital improvements to the water system or replacing it entirely in the event of a catastrophe.
Q. What are the reserve study requirements?
A: Per RCW 64.38.065, an association is encouraged to establish a reserve account with a financial institution to fund major maintenance, repair, and replacement of common elements. The Board of Trustees is responsible for administering the reserve account. The Association is currently funding replacement reserve accounts for the future major repair and replacement of Association assets of the water system. Accumulated funds are held in separate accounts and are generally not available for operating purposes. There is a reserve study being prepared by FCS Group using the calendar year 2013 water operations data.
Q: What happened to the reserves in prior years?
A: The 2012-2013 fiscal year budget approved by the membership does not include the allocation of the Water Surcharge income to the Water Reserve. Therefore, the membership approved the decision of the 2011-2012 Board of Trustees to opt out of the regulation and to use the funds for necessary operational costs. Controls are being put in place to educate the Board and future volunteers on how the reserves need to be funded, currently per the Water Regulations via the surcharge. This proposed budget meets this requirement.