OCEAN PINES – After what board president Tom Terry said were more than 15 meetings on the matter the Ocean Pines Association board of directors decided they needed a few more before passing a budget for the coming fiscal year.
The board is expected to hold a conference call on Feb. 24 aimed at settling the budget, but it is unclear that they will reach consensus.
Under pressure from a number of residents to reduce or eliminate the $45 assessment increase the board had previously agreed upon, the directors voted 4-3 against passing the fiscal 2012 budget for the OPA and sent General Manager Bob Thompson back to the drawing board to make more reductions.
While $30 of the proposed increase is slated for debt-reduction and future capital improvement funds – $4 and $26 respectively – the cuts are likely to come from the $15 slated for operations as part of Thompson’s “Open for Business” plan to increase revenue.
The increase was to give the general manager the latitude to keep amenities open longer and hire specialized personnel if necessary as a means of driving revenue. Instead the board is expected to remove some or all of those options from the table, electing to reduce spending and curtail operations rather than increasing revenue as a way of improving amenities performance. Although he was unable to attain a majority for the budget, Terry had earlier endorsed Thompson’s “Open for Business” plan.
“We challenged the staff to make the best out of what we’ve got and try to turn it into a plus,” he said. “Using the amenities we’ve got and keeping them open.”
The recommendations made by the Ten-Year Task Force for planning to repair and replace facilities as needed will likely remain untouched. Terry spoke in response to member worries that a large reserve was only a temptation for future boards to spend unwisely. Many people complained that the board was able to cover the Sports Core pool without member consent.
While he said he understood people’s concerns, Terry reiterated that he trusted the people of Ocean Pines to make the best decisions for themselves. He also stressed the need for the people who are using the facilities today to pay for their replacement.
Although the board didn’t pass the budget, they did take care of other business items at last week’s meeting, including a review of their collection processes.
As part of his monthly general manager’s report Thompson told the directors about enhancements to the collection process for delinquent dues. Instead of only sending letters as part of the process, the OPA will pursue a more aggressive telephone collection program where staff members try and secure payments before running up attorney, court and filing costs associated with foreclosure.
Thompson said foreclosure is still an option the association uses in a timely manner but that the phone calls and workout agreements have increased collections significantly. Outstanding dues are over $400,000.
Ginny Reister, chair of the OPA aquatic advisory committee, petitioned the board of directors to consider passing a resolution banning smoking from the areas around the pools, particularly around the Yacht Club pool. She said the committee did not require an answer at this meeting.
Reister also reported to the board, with a few interruptions from the crowd, on increased participation numbers and asked the board to again consider allowing patrons to pay a fee monthly rather than annually.