Burke Centre Residents Writing Bigger Checks

Burke Centre Residents Writing Bigger Checks

Following a budget shortfall for the first quarter of 2004, Burke Centre residents will pay an additional $25 a quarter, or $75 more in community fees for the remainder of 2004.

Charlie Stewart, a budget task force member exclusively appointed to examine the Burke Centre budget, addressed a full room on Thursday, March 11, at the Commons Community Center. He said that three years passed with no assessment increases when there should have been increases.

"The seeds of the issues we face today go back several years," Stewart said. "Burke Centre today lacks a strategic plan. It should be the basic starting point for the budget within a community. We recommend the board raise a special assessment."

Other members of the budget task force included Kieran Boylan, Everett Dowd, Amy Matthews, David Meade and Phil Pool. The special budget task force was established by the board of trustees to review the 2004 budget, assess the current situation and provide recommendations in time for the board to take timely action.

Specific recommendations in the task force's summary included the special assessment, a level of involvement by the trustees in budget matters, recommendations on monthly financial data, a strategic plan, changes at the Conservancy to reduce operating costs, establishment of a budget and finance committee, and increased communications with the community on financial matters.

The task force report stated that errors occurred in the preparation of the budget for 2004, but the Conservancy remains in an extremely healthy financial condition, with $4 million in reserves. The vote was unanimous to adopt the assessment to straighten the financial situation out.

"What's to say there won't be another special assessment?" one resident asked at the meeting. Although Stewart mentioned the task force's short-term intentions, he wouldn't rule out another assessment for the 2005 budget.

"We were a two-week task force," he said.

KAREN FRANK, Conservancy financial administrator, said that no plans were in place right now to incorporate this additional $25 a quarter into the 2005 budget.

"We won't know anything about the 2005 budget until we get into the budget session," Frank said.

Luanne Smith, incoming Burke Centre board president, couldn't say whether the $25 assessment increase was going to be permanent, either.

"It's really too soon to tell," Smith said.

Stewart did admit that unexpected costs occurred last year with higher insurance premiums, snowstorms, Hurricane Isabel, and fewer pool memberships. Those reasons were stated in January as well, so nothing new was pinpointed for the budget shortfall.

"In 2003, there were some unplanned events," Stewart said. "After the budget was prepared, there was a large increase in insurance costs."

Also at the meeting, trustee Duwain Ketch put forth a motion that enabled the board to temporarily borrow up to $50,000 from reserves on a short-term basis, if necessary. Residents stressed the need for two trustees to be involved as well if the Conservancy was borrowing from reserves. Thomas Wade, executive director, thought that was reasonable.

"Two people is certainly permissible and easy to do," he said.

At the meeting, the new board officers were chosen as well. Smith is the new president, Greg Smith is the vice president, Phil Pool is the interim treasurer, and Sam DiBartolo is the secretary.