Sharing this presentation (with permission) from the Chair of the OM Board to the Columbia Association. I'll write more about this tomorrow. --jam
September 28, 2017
TO: CA Board Meeting
FROM: Jonathan Edelson, Chairman, Oakland Mills Board of Directors
Subject: Proposed Assessment Share Formula, Resident Speak-Out Remarks
Subject: Proposed Assessment Share Formula, Resident Speak-Out Remarks
Good Evening. My name is Jonathan Edelson and I am the Chairman of the Oakland Mill Community Association. I am here to talk to you about the proposed changes to the assessment share formula. The Oakland Mills Board sent comments back to the assessment share committee, and I understand these comments have also been shared with you, but I must underscore the dire financial circumstances Oakland Mills would face should we lose nearly $57,000 in assessment share. This represents almost a 10 percent cut to our total budget and a 15 percent cut to the current assessment share we receive. It is by far the largest cut among all of Columbia’s villages.
First and foremost, the cuts to our budget required to absorb this loss, even if implemented over a three fiscal year period, would leave us unable to fulfill our mission to serve the residents of Oakland Mills. We must remember that we are incorporated to operate,“...exclusively for the promotion of the health, safety, common good and social welfare of the owners of property in, and residents of the community of Columbia...” (Oakland Mills Community Association, Inc. Articles of Incorporation, pg. 1)
As you may know, Oakland Mills has the lowest median income of any Columbia Village and is the home of one fully subsidized apartment complex and one partially subsidized apartment complex owned by the Howard County Housing Commission. We are also home to the high school, middle school, and elementary school with the highest rates of children receiving free and reduced meal services in Howard County. A cut of this magnitude will affect everyone in Oakland Mills, but it could most acutely affect those in most need in our community.
Our schools, PTAs, boosters, and other local community nonprofits rely on our modest donation budget to fund important programs and activities. With our recent support, every child at Stevens Forest Elementary, where 2/3 of the children receive food assistance, brings home a book from the book fair; the new Pre-K at Talbott Springs Elementary, where half of students receive food assistance, got iPads for use in the classroom; the PTSA at Oakland Mills Middle brought an author to school to work with students on writing; the then brand new Oakland Mills High Robotics Club entered and won a competition; the Oakland Mills Fine Arts Boosters bought instruments for children who could not otherwise afford them, and the Forest Ridge Community Center kept its doors open to our neediest children when its county fundingwas cut. These organizations do not have the fundraising base that similar organizations in other parts of the county have, and our modest donation can mean the difference between serving a need or letting the inequality continue to grow.
We watch expenses very carefully for our special events to ensure they can be offered at no cost so any of our residents can attend. These include not only social events, but important informational events like housing rehabilitation panels, Board of Education candidate forums, and health and safety sessions with local authorities. The staff and hours of operation cuts we may have to make would lead to both a reduction in the number of special events we can host and the need to charge admission fees to events that were once free to our residents. We will also very likely need to stop advertising and printed newsletters. Without advertising, we could face additional loss of revenue through reduced rentals of The Other Barn, as almost all of our rental business comes to us through advertising. Additionally, many of our residents still rely on printed media for information due to both preference and, more importantly, lack of access to social and electronic media, and they would miss out on important events and other information.
Our thoughts on the assessment formula itself are covered in our first response to the proposal, but they are worth repeating again. The formula developed by the assessment share group, which I know put in a lot of time and effort, makes everything equal based upon arithmetic formulas, but it is not equitable.
Our main rental facility, The Other Barn, is a unique and iconic structure in Columbia. Unfortunately, it is also a difficult structure to manage and maintain. While the formulaincludes a flat rate per square foot of space across all facilities in all villages, it fails to consider the unique features and limitations of the facilities.
When The Loft in the Other Barn is in use, we cannot rent the rooms on the bottom floor. If we did, we would have people walking through each other’s events to access the ADA entranceand use the restroom facilities. So, our reality is that we have limited opportunity to bring inrevenue from all of the square footage available for rental at The Other Barn. The formula does not recognize this.
As an older facility with unique architecture, The Other Barn also presents expense challenges. While we recognize and appreciate that CA covers capital expenditures over $1,000, many individual maintenance expenses in our facilities fall below this level on a per-case basis, but they add up quickly over the course of the year. We pay for numerous service calls on our dumbwaiter because our main rental space is upstairs, but our kitchen is downstairs. The aforementioned elevator has broken many times before the last incident that led to its replacement. It takes two CA workers to change a light bulb in The Loft at a cost of about $150 per incident. These are just a few examples to illustrate why a one size fits all formula does not work when the villages it is being applied to are not starting out on equal footing.
Similarly, our housing stock is older than most of the rest of Columbia. Other villages have benefited from lessons learned in pioneer villages like Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake. Oakland Mills is about to celebrate a milestone – its 50 th birthday – but that is also a reminder that our homes, apartment buildings, and commercial buildings are aging, and some were built using practices and materials that were not used in newer villages. We would like to do property standards evaluation, but such a cut would make this impossible. We already have a backlog of covenant cases, and reducing our covenant advisors’ hours would only make this worse. Even things like trees are presenting an issue – we have large numbers of applications from residents to take down trees that are reaching the end of their lives. Our covenants require that an advisor visit each site to start the process of taking down dead and ailing trees. These are challenges that I’m sure some other villages face, but some do not or face them to a lesser degree because of differences in covenants or just being newer than we are, yet the formula for all villages is
In conclusion, I hope the CA Board will consider that equal and equitable have different meanings. Equal means the same, while equitable means fair . The assessment share formula proposed is equal. Unfortunately, the villages it may be applied to are not equal, and that will lead to an outcome that is not equitable. We all sign fiduciary responsibility agreements; I signed for OMCA and you signed for CA. Because of the way our finances are intertwined, I implore you to consider your fiduciary responsibility to Columbia’s villages. Oakland Mills understands and accepts that things will change under any new assessment share formula; however, unless this formula is adjusted to account for differences in our villages, and, our assessment share decrease is capped, our mission and financial stability are in serious jeopardy.