If you attended the April TPOA meeting, once again it can be noted that a new tone of participation and transparency is in the air and there is definitely some change in how the board views the property owners they were elected to represent in attendance. Whereas in the past property owners were considered insignificant and irrelevant to any decision-making process much less participation during the meeting, there are now opportunities to ask questions, seek answers and have a board member actually respond with something other than “I don’t know and we’ll look into it”.
Unfortunately, some things just can’t be overlooked. As has been reported repeatedly in previous blogs, in social media discussions, and on other platforms about what is legal or not in our development, the board believed they could do a “special assessment” if necessary because the by-laws that THEY created which none of us officially voted on to approve, stated they could do so.
Repeatedly and previously in various discussions the board has been told by more than one resource they were not able to do anything more than raise our assessments by 10% annually which is clearly outlined in our deed restrictions. And yet, as the board neared the finish line in obligating our neighborhood, our commonly owned park and all property owners to an approximate $1.5 million dollar plus interest loan to build a new clubhouse, the bank they chose to work with (not a local one at that) asked as a part of their underwriting requirements for the legally binding means to be able to levy a “special assessment” should it be necessary during our loan obligation with them due to a loan default or lack of ability to meet the monthly obligations to repay the loan.
From someone who has worked in the financial lending industry for a number of years, if a lender is seeking additional collateral and reassurances that the loan can be repaid, it believes the borrower may not be the best candidate financially, may not have the financial resources to make them a solid candidate for borrowing, and are looking for additional security to ensure they get repaid. Our financials, as you have all seen during the whole club house build process, have gone through redo after redo after redo because of errors, misstated information and monetary misstatements. The board oversees the preparation of the financials and where the money goes. Shouldn’t they have a handle on those numbers and know them clearly before they begin the lending process? Could that possibly be one reason why a bank might think that we might not be a good candidate for a loan?
If the board had been doing their fiduciary duty ensuring our financials were solid and we had enough operating capital to handle the debt load they were about to obligate us to, they would have known we were not a good borrowing candidate for a loan package of this size. Some of the reasons include:
- we don’t have the reserves saved we should have by now,
- annually we spend almost as much as we have revenue and some years more than we bring in with the budget we currently have,
- the board has allowed a management company total autonomy in managing our neighborhood, the financials, and everything associated with the business of the neighborhood
- building social programs has taken precedent over business operations of the neighborhood.
Before anyone decides to send me hate mail or shoot arrows my way, please know that I love a good party just as much as the next guy and I believe social activities bring a neighborhood together. However, the focus of the TPOA is not to establish our social health but rather to handle and manage the business of the TPOA on behalf of its property owners. That means budgeting, saving, best use of funds, prioritizing necessary repairs and maintenance, etc. Social activities fall to the bottom of the list of what the board should be focusing on.
Do you all remember attending meetings with audiences asking questions about business matters only to have a blank look from former Presidents and their teams with no answers or a look at the Spectrum rep in attendance to answer the question? Shouldn’t the board know the finances, where the money goes, etc.?
The board, this board, has known for some time now they could not legally levy a special assessment for any reason because our deed restrictions state clearly the assessments can only be raised by 10% per annum. Let me restate that: Our deed restrictions allow for only a 10% per annum increase period. Our deed restrictions rule our property ownership, not the bylaws created out of thin air which no property owners voted for or against. Yet they considered it a possible option because the by-laws they created stated it was a potential option they could undertake with their ruling authority. Statements made at the meeting indicated that legal interpretation sided with the deed restrictions in the inability to levy such an extra fee.
The last blog about the clubhouse raised the question why we aren’t all asking for a HALT on the forward movement of the clubhouse build given the mistakes, the miscalculations, the mismanagement, and no fiscal accountability.
The utter lack of investigation and understanding by the board of the problems that we would be facing in attempting a new build in the park prior to undertaking such a huge endeavor is undeniable. Like permitting with TCEQ, the county, fire and any other agencies involved in our neighborhood’s use of its park. In planning such a large investment/expense for our neighborhood, shouldn’t the board have spent time prior to obligating funds in several directions which have now largely been wasted to determine what it would take and how much it would cost to actually build?
One example with regard to permitting is the flood plain which exists in a good portion of our park and particularly around the clubhouse area and how it impacts where dirt can be moved, etc. The board was warned of this pitfall and told of several others which awaited them as they decided to build a new club house. Instead of listening to educated members of the community that were attempting to help avoid extra expenses and unnecessary problems, the board blazed forward spending money on master park plans, design plans, architectural plans, fees and permits, loan fees, application fees, etc. all to now be not only wasted, but apparently we will be starting over once again. More money wasted!
Property owners – it’s time to say STOP!!! It’s time to insist on an oversight committee of property owners who have the knowledge, the experience and the expertise in managing, building and financing a project of this stature to ensure it is done properly and is financially solid. It’s time to have independent thinkers at the table of management who actually want to manage the BUSINESS of the TPOA! I don’t mean board members who have had more than enough time, and plenty of learning curve opportunities which seem to have been ignored, to sit on this committee. I mean unaffiliated property owners who live here in Timberwood Park and can offer a well rounded perspective on the entire project.
Maybe it’s even time to revisit the vote process and determine how the neighborhood feels about the project at this time given the money we have wasted thus far and the lack of progress we have made in the process due to mistakes, inaccurate information and lack of knowledge of the business aspects of the association. Generally speaking, not focusing on the business aspect of the TPOA has cost us considerably already. Why not put it out to the property owners to determine where they would like to go now that we have been turned down for financing?
As has been said before, we should be capable of saving the bulk of funds necessary for the project without needing to finance such a large obligation if we manage our funds properly and stop using them unwisely. Sacrifice those “extras” that money is spent on while we ensure the maintenance and upkeep of the existing assets of our park remain intact and operational and allow a building fund to be saved to “make it happen”.
Property owners speak up! It’s your money!