Where does CA’s money go?

Thanks to CA board chair Andy Stack’s email, I am putting something together to show how expensive CA  is facing to maintain and fix its current facilities.  This article partially responds to the question “where does CA’s money go” I heard during this Thanksgiving holiday. Many residents see their annual charge keep increasing and the gym membership is more expensive than ever.
As a board member of Columbia Association, I want to make sure the Columbia Association is spending its money wisely. Besides our human resource cost ( we have around 270 full time employee and 700 part time employee), here are some capital project in the pipeline. Note CA has around 70 million dollars annual budget.
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A 5-year capital plan was discussed in June 2016. CA board were presented with 7 facility assessments which had estimated replacement values. All replacement estimates are in 2016 dollars and do not include all costs.

Large Capital Project on the line

 Athletic Club replacement        $24 M
Ice Rink replacement                  $16.5 M
Art Center replacement             $3.3 M
Stonehouse replacement           $6.5 M
The Other Barn replacement    $4.5 M
Teen Center replacement          $3.5 M
Maintenance Facility replace   $11.5 M
The reports identified millions of dollars of improvements/upgrades/repairs which were needed for each of these buildings. CA board have only approved funds for the Ice Rink and the Athletic Club. The proposed budget finishes these and starts the work on Art Center and Stonehouse. In addition to these facilities, CA still have the Supreme Sports Club, Slayton House and Kahler Hall among other facilities which need upgrades/repairs.

Five Year Capital Spending budget

Overall in June 2016, CA estimated that the following capital budgets were needed to maintain/repair/upgrade existing facilities and other items.
FY-2018  $23.2 M
FY-2019  $19.6 M
FY-2020  $17.8 M
FY-2021  $16.5 M
FY-2022  $17.5 M
And these figures did not include things like dredging of Lake Elkhorn and CA’s headquarter building as well as any new facilities. We are in need of five million dollars for pond management alone in the next ten years. Our FY-2018 capital budget was not $23.2 M as CA could not afford that sum. We are fortunate that current economic conditions allow CA to have FY-2019 and FY-2020 capital budgets of $20 M each year. It is not clear that economic conditions beyond FY-2020 will allow CA to continue to have such large capital budgets.
After the Swim Center and Athletic Club, CA will continue to have multi-million dollar capital requirements to repair/upgrade/maintain our facilities and associated items. And all these costs without any new facilities. A New facility would add millions of additional dollars to any future capital budget and many new facility may be a money loss machine due to its nature.
The CA Board has been very insistent that CA fix/upgrade/repair/maintain its existing facilities before considering any new facilities in the past.

Some considerations in the past

Of course when we are presented with the costs of fixing/repairing/upgrading a particular facility, the CA Board should look at whether a replacement would be more cost effective. When considering the Hobbits Glen Clubhouse, whether to repair/upgrade or replace, the CA Board decided that a replacement made better economic sense. And so a new clubhouse was built. Similarly, the CA Board decided that a new Indoor Tennis facility was a better choice than trying to upgrade/maintain the existing Tennis Bubble. In the situation with the existing Swim Center, the CA Board came to the opposite conclusion; it would be better to repair/upgrade the existing Swim Center than build a new Swim Center.

Poor and Rich Psychology Pendulum

There is an old saying: it is easier to live from poor to rich and it is more difficult to live from rich to poor.  Many of us may just take many great things in the community for granted since the area has been on the rise and prosperous for a long time. Now, as CA has many old facilities which are competing for the limited resources for repair or renovation, we may face tough choices if the economy changes its directions.
One very simple example now is we don’t  have the leaf collection service. I am surprised that either CA or the county government do not provide such service since we are advocating for green neighborhood. The consequence is that we have piles and piles of leaves in the fall. I spent several hours to put those leaves in 20 bags. It will be much cheaper and convenient for many residents (especially for seniors) if CA or the county government sets a date and collects those leaves.  I talked about this problem among CA board members and CA staff and one reason we did not have it: the service is too expensive.

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