Villages asking for more funding

Boards want larger grants from CA for staff raises

Golf club, stipends also discussed

January 27, 2003|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Representatives from nearly all of Columbia's 10 villages are lobbying the Columbia Association's board of directors to allocate more money for village staff salaries, to make them comparable to the association's employee pay.

The representatives are asking for larger financial grants so the villages can match a 3.6 percent pay raise proposed for CA staff members.

"We cannot fall behind in our responsibility to offer competitive salaries to staff," Garry Chandler, chairman of the Town Center Village Board, said in front of about 40 residents crammed into the meeting room at CA headquarters Wednesday night.

CA's monetary allocation for staff salaries has risen steadily in recent years. For the 2004 fiscal year, which begins in May, the association is considering a budget that would spend $14.2 million - about a 29 percent increase from 1999 - on salaries and wages of almost 500 full-time equivalent employees.

Columbia's villages are managed separately, with each responsible for providing quarterly financial reports to the homeowners association. The association gives grants each year to the villages to fund their daily operations, pay for covenant enforcement and manage the 24 community buildings owned by CA.

For the 2004 fiscal year, CA is proposing $1.7 million in grants to the villages.

The association also plans to pick up the cost of real estate taxes and insurance on the village buildings - charges that each village used to pay with its grant money. Insurance is expected to cost $83,000, and tax payments are budgeted for $28,000.

In the fall, the village's frustration over having to pay insurance and taxes caused some villages to balk at signing annual management contracts with CA.

The proposed 2004 grants include money for the villages to pay for general liability insurance, and many of the village representatives asked that CA also assume that cost.

"Should any general liability suit be initiated, both the community association and CA would be named, which connects us automatically," said Barbara Seely, chairwoman of the Kings Contrivance Village Board.

Wednesday night was the public's last chance to formally influence the CA board before it votes on the final shape of the budget, which is scheduled for the end of next month.

Also at the hearing, residents voiced opinions on plans to renovate damaged greens at Hobbit's Glen Golf Club and a proposal to give stipends to CA board members.

Dave Leonard, chairman of the Hobbit's Glen/Fairway Hills Golf Committee, said the $679,000 project to rebuild 16 greens and regrass four is the "only way to ensure a lasting solution" to the course's structural problems.

Leonard also asked the board to consider refurbishing the clubhouse while the course is closed for the repairs. He suggested a technical evaluation of the building to determine the cost of such a project.

Some of the necessary improvements include adding restaurant seating, improving the front entrance and installing a sprinkler system, Leonard said.

Juanita Robinson, chairwoman of the Harper's Choice Village Board, said that the village board is looking forward to the course's renovation and that the group hopes the course will eventually "run in the black."

However, John Hannay, chairman of the Wilde Lake Village Board, said his board isn't convinced that rebuilding the greens will solve the golf course's problems. "We have to be honest and say we continue to feel a healthy skepticism about this," he said.

Ginger Scott, a Wilde Lake resident, suggested that one of CA's two golf courses, which she called "money-guzzling facilities," be converted into open space.

"Instead of being cash cows for CA, the golf courses have become very hungry sacred cows," she said. "Isn't it time to let one of them revert to open space that all Columbians may enjoy?"

Also Wednesday night, village representatives and residents were split over a proposal that would give $5,000 stipends to each CA board member if he or she attends at least 80 percent of the meetings. Members have never been paid for their service.

Laura Heinrich, a member of the Long Reach Village Board, said her board wants the stipends discussed separately, instead of being addressed as part of the budget process.

She said the idea might be considered by CA in the context of its governance committee's work.

"We feel that this is really a major philosophical change," she said.

Joan Lancos, a Hickory Ridge resident, said the stipend idea has merit and could add value to the positions. But, she said, "I really don't think it will encourage anyone to do the job."

Also at the hearing, former board member Steven Pine of Kings Contrivance urged the board to reform its pricing model for memberships to the association's facilities - which include 23 outdoor pools, three gyms and two golf courses. He presented a proposal that replaces the residents' rates with a credit to "defray the cost" of the memberships.

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