- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
It’s that time of year again, where governments at every level put together their budgets for the new fiscal year and are often met with some concerns and then approved.
Like a government, two of Calvert’s largest homeowners’ associations are drafting their Special Tax District budgets, which are ultimately approved by the county commissioners and require an annual fee per lot in order for the association to maintain its roads, upgrade stormwater management and perform other community projects. And like a government, the boards of directors in these homeowners’ association are met with concerns from their community members.
Travis Scott, president of the Property Owners Association of the Chesapeake Ranch Estates, said the budget gets approved with the majority in mind.
“You have to have a consensus of the membership,” Scott cited as the only real rule by which the POACRE board must conduct its STD budget-building process. “We don’t just do it in a vacuum. The board isn’t going to require an STD without public input.”
Last week, the board approved a proposed STD budget to be sent to the commissioners, who will hold a public hearing and approve it, or another version of it, before July 1. That budget will be in place for the next five years, after which the board will devise a new one. The board’s proposed version has been met with some ire, however, as it calls for a $10 increase in annual fees per lot, from $250 to $260.
In response, more than 40 members signed a petition to be sent to the commissioners asking them to vote down the STD and require the POACRE board to hold a full membership vote; they accessed the petition online at www.poacre-membership.com, a member-created site to reveal “truthful, no-nonsense information” about their community, separate from the official POACRE site, www.poacre.org.
In an email, CRE resident Steve Koscuisko sent the county commissioners a copy of the petition and a letter and wrote in the body of the email, “There has been no Membership Vote, No POACRE special membership meeting and no member has been able to view the [proposed budget] that you will receive. I have seen no evidence that the POACRE [board of directors] are acting on behalf of the Membership they represent.”
But Scott maintains the STD was discussed at several past board meetings, during a PowerPoint presentation at the spring membership meeting and in both the March and April community newsletters, and all board meetings have a public comment session for residents to voice their concerns. In addition, residents may email the office, where the manager is “standing by to take comments,” he said.
Out of about 4,000 homeowners, to date Scott said the proposed STD as adopted last week received a few questions and more positive comments than negative ones. The reason for raising the annual fee per lot by $10 is to improve and build playgrounds and skate parks for kids, he said, adding that parents have spoken positively about that.
Of the roughly 10 residents who attended the board meeting to approve the STD, only three said they would like to see it go to a community vote, Scott said.
“We are elected by the members to represent them,” he said. “We are to operate in the best interest of the organization and represent the people at the same time. As a good steward of the corporation and without an overwhelming negative response, I believe people want us to do what is best for CRE.”
Scott said CRE has had an STD budget for 15 years now and stressed its importance.
“The reasonable lifespan of a road is 15 to 20 years. If we didn’t have an STD, roads we did 15 years ago would have slipped into disrepair. New projects would be limited to none; we’d be maintenance only,” he said.
One criticism the board received is that it did not post the draft STD budget online before approving it to go to the county, Scott said. However, he said he didn’t see the need for making it public before that point because the public hearing with the commissioners “is the best time for comment. That’s when it really makes a difference.”
But it will go online soon and details will be placed in the next newsletter, he said.
Ann Ciri, a resident who said she has been at odds with numerous board decisions, said her biggest complaint is that there is “no vehicle to let the residents know what’s truly going on.”
She said she would like to see a spot in the monthly newsletter that describes what each committee is doing, more information on the website and more board transparency.
“It’s easier to get in and out of Russia than it is to get information out of them,” Ciri said. “Right now I’m just so annoyed with them. I’m here, I pay my dues, I have just as much right to enjoy this place.”