Understanding The Budget Process
Posted on September 3, 2019 3:37 PM by Melissa Gentry
The budget is a formal financial plan that determines the annual assessment. It should cover operations and reserve funding. A lot of work goes into preparing the budget. It’s a complex activity that has to start early so the budget can be finalized and approved prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year. Here’s how we do it:
•    The board appoints a budget committee to help with some or all of the following tasks.
•    The board and manager work together to gather all financial information we’ll need to project expenses for the coming year. This could be a reserve analysis, bids for contracts, projections for utility or service increases, comparisons of past years’ budget trends and many other details.
•    The board also examines all sources of income—assessments, interest on investments, proceeds from concession or club operation and other types of miscellaneous income.
•    When projecting income, remember that some owners will inevitably default or be late with assessment payments, which will reduce monthly cash flow.
•    The board creates a working draft by adjusting the expenses and income until they balance. This may be accomplished by foregoing certain expenses to avoid raising assessments. Or it may be necessary to raise assessments to cover increased expenses such as utilities that the board cannot control.
•    When the board has developed the best possible draft budget, the association sends it to association members. This is typically done at the annual meeting of the members.  We can email it to member in advance of the meeting to ask questions and offer comments.
•    Based on member comments, the board revises the draft budget as needed.
•    At the annual meeting the association votes to approve the final budget. 
Do You Need a Budget Committee?
The budget committee comprises members of our community association, which enables residents to have a say in how their money is spent. How does the budget committee work and who serves on it?
The Treasurer’s Role
It makes sense for the board treasurer to chair the budget committee. As chair, it’s the treasurer’s job to keep everyone on track as the budget is prepared. The treasurer also presents the budget for approval to the board and members.
Who Should Be on the Committee?
The owners who serve on the budget committee should represent a cross-section of the community. Of course, if there are members willing to serve who have expertise in areas such as insurance, that’s even better. When it comes to size, a good general guideline is that the committee shouldn’t be so large that it becomes unwieldy. 
What the Committee Does
The treasurer will make sure that all committee members understand the three basic components of the budget:
1. Funds needed for daily operation of the community, such as common electricity and water, grounds maintenance, management, insurance, and general maintenance. These expenses are either contractual or can be reasonably estimated based on experience. An important consideration when looking at items in the operating budget is the expectations of the community—for example, do members want a landscaper who is a “blow, mow, and go” type, or do they want a landscaper who provides a higher level of service?
2. Funds needed to maintain our reserves at sufficient levels. Reserve funds provide money for the repair and replacement of the community’s assets—such as the pool, roofs, pavement, etc. 
3. Funds for additions or enhancements to the existing property. This is a function of what members of the community want and are willing to pay for. The community should provide input and approval for this component. 
Armed with this knowledge, the committee will estimate total expenses for the coming year and compare that sum to the association’s potential revenue (assessments, interest on investments, concession income, and so on). If expenses are greater than revenue, the committee will look for ways to lower expenses without compromising service. If that doesn’t balance the budget, the committee may have to make a tough decision—whether to increase assessments or levy a one-time special assessment. 
The budget committee performs a very similar process as the board when preparing the budget.  The difference is that the committee does the work!  
As you can see, this is a detailed project that requires time and consideration.  The more amenities and accounts payable, the longer and bigger the budget process will be.  That’s why we are getting started soon for your 2020 budgets now.  Expect to start discussing budgets at your next board meeting.  
Join us for our upcoming Board Education Class on October 22, 2019 at 6p.  Please RSVP here.  Hope to see you there!