The New Mark Commons Homes Association Board of Directors at its December 7 regular meeting unanimously approved the 2018 budget that calls for increases in the operating and reserve budgets aimed at keeping pace with increasing costs and addressing major long-delayed capital improvement projects such as repaving parking lots and taking care of erosion issues.
The Board approved an operating budget of $452,911 for 2018. It also signaled its intention to spend about $425,000 on capital improvement budgets in 2018.
The projected impact on homeowners will add anywhere from $19.85 to $22.70 a month in dues, increasing annual dues to a range of $1,326.54 to $1,453.13 depending on the size of the home. That means that in 2018, residents will be paying a range of $110.55 to $121.09 a month to support New Mark’s operating and capital costs. The details are posted under the Resident Area tab of this website in Meeting Minutes, Agendas and Other Reports/Audit, Reserve Fund Study, and Other Reports.**
The increases in contributions to the Reserve Fund are based on projections in the Reserve Fund Plan 2017 produced by Mason & Mason capital reserve analysts. The Board officially approved the reserve fund study at the December 7 meeting, and it is posted under the Resident Area tab of this website in Meeting Minutes, Agendas and Other Reports/Audit, Reserve Fund Study, and Other Reports.**
During its discussion, the Board members noted that the new monthly fees remained among the lowest fees among homeowners’ associations in Montgomery County, and were necessary to maintain the community’s 50-year-old infrastructure.
The new budget has broad support across the community, with Board members describing encounters with dozens of people during regular walks who supported the much-needed capital improvements. Only around five emails had been received criticizing the proposed budget, which had been circulated to residents at least 30 days before Thursday’s meeting, and again, with added detailed explanations, in the November 2017 New Mark News newsletter.
During Community Forum, resident Joe Jordan, a past Board president, objected to the dues increase, saying it was “not sustainable.” He also criticized past boards for deferring maintenance such as repaving the parking lots. “I feel like I’m held hostage … for sins of the past boards,” he said.
Resident Ron Tipton said he and his wife “very much support the added dues.” Art Katz thanked the Board for doing the “thankless task” of raising the dues in significant ways.
The Board noted its legal fiduciary duty to uphold common infrastructure. “If we do not do these repairs, our property values will drop,” Board Secretary and Treasurer David Schwartzman noted. Absent increases that are larger than the Consumer Price Index guideline used by decades of NMC Boards, the community could face special assessments of $1,000 to $2,000, Board members and the Abaris representative noted.
Board President John Daroff noted that the Board is committed to spending $425,000 on capital improvement projects in 2018. In November the Board agreed to prioritize the following:
- Fix the drainage and erosion problems including behind 338-342 NME, 508-516 NME and 300-314 NME (estimated cost of at least $150,000 according to the recent Reserve Study);
- Take the first steps toward restoring the asphalt in communally-owned parking areas, starting with the 200-342 NME block and the 500-522 block (estimated cost $140,000);
- Fix parts of the concrete pool deck so the pool can pass the 2018 inspection (estimated $30,000);
- Fix trip hazards along community-owned sidewalks; replace the decaying timber retaining walls at 816-822 NME with pre-manufactured block walls (about $10,000); and commission the analysis of what will be involved in dredging the lake sometime after 2018.
Shireen Ambush, a senior community manager with New Mark’s new management company Abaris, attended her first meeting with the Board. She presented multiple bids for some of the safety-related work and engineering studies, a change from past struggles when the NMC administrator could not get companies to bid on New Mark’s small projects.
Shireen used Abaris’ larger reach with contractors, and the Board approved the following projects: $6,500 for CSG company to do the engineering study for the erosion problems; $2,995 for CSG to evaluate the retaining wall adjacent to 876 NME and advise the community on how to rebuild; $750 to CE Construction to remove old dangerous wooden benches at the playground; $4,485 to CE Construction to remove and replace the falling wooden fence at the precipice next to the playground; and $2,240 to CE Construction to remove the dangerous wooden steps at the clubhouse parking lot and install black chain link fencing .
Before approving the budget, the Board voted unanimously to use its authority under Article VI, Section 5a of the Covenants that allows dues to increase by an amount proportional to the total overall increase of assessed property values since the neighborhood was built. Property values have gone up more than 1,000% over 1967, while dues have not increased proportionately to that.
**If you are a New Mark Commons resident and do not yet have full website access, visit the Resident Area tab of the website and select Register New User. When your registration is approved you’ll receive an email to complete your login.