by Troy Lesan
It’s been a challenging year. Most years are – but this one in particular. It all started at last year’s annual meeting. The board had a lot on their plate: a one-time fee to build and maintain an entrance gate at the main boat ramp – to combat the very real threat of Zebra Mussels – and a sizeable dues increase to offset a perceived spike in general lake upkeep and increased maintenance expenses.
In summary, the gate passed and the board got half of the assessment increase asked for. End of story? No…just the beginning. Since a budget had been passed based on the projected increase, the lesser increase immediately created a deficit budget. A deficit to the tune of $70,000! This caused a great clamor and wringing of hands. A former board member published a letter to this periodical stating, if I may paraphrase: “You did what? You approved a deficit budget? You’ve got to be kidding!”
And that’s not all. Other association members published a letter highly critical of the board – outlining mistakes made and areas of weakness. I wish I had $10 for every instance where – on Facebook, or at meetings, or simply in casual conversations – people are loud and vocal in criticisms, but when you pin them down, have no real answers to improve the situation.
In the case of the member who wrote the letter, it was a different story. He actually did have constructive ideas…and he joined the Finance Committee to assist! By the way, the member of whom I am speaking is Glen Miller. He has a strong management and accounting background which was evident at the town hall meeting on Feb. 17. Glen’s presentation was very well structured and highly informative. As the past year went by, he was of great assistance to the Finance Committee on issues of finance and accounting. They are:
Transparency: Beginning in 2017, financial statements were published quarterly in the Lake Viking News. In addition, a Finance Committee member with a strong accounting background has volunteered to meet and offer explanations to any person who has questions. Sally in the office is also very capable and knowledgeable and will answer questions that are posed in a serious and respectful manner. (Translation of the term respectful manner: If you approach Sally ranting and raving with expletives and insults and a condescending manner, you may fail this test). In a LV Facebook post, a member expressed amazement at how quickly Sally emailed an answer to his financial question. The Lake Viking Association has never been more transparent than it is today!
Cash Compilation Audit: Performed by Karlin & Long CPAs, a cash compilation is one type of audit. Other audits are more extensive and also more costly. This audit was recommended and approved by the board and bids were sent out. Members who oppose the cash compilation in favor of a full audit should make their opinions known at monthly meetings. This procedure is not set in stone and we can consider going a different route in the future.
Segregation of Financial Duties: This measure is not an indictment or suspicion on current association employees, but who knows who future employees will be? Witness past embezzlements at Jamesport and Pattonsburg Schools, local banks, and the Caldwell County Regional Prison. Small entities are especially vulnerable. Segregation of financial duties is sound practice recommended in last year’s administrative audit. The line item “Administrative Expense” in the 2018 budget reflects fees to be paid to Cameron Accounting for monthly on-site review and reconciliation of financial statements.
All of the above measures were approved by the board and are positive steps. Before we go any further, and the reader thinks that this article is all about the Finance Committee, it should be noted that other committees have done extraordinary work. The Activities Committee, chaired by Mary Hibler, has been AWESOME. I’ve lived at Lake Viking for 17 years and never seen anything close to the outstanding lineup of activities that we had in 2017. Meanwhile, the Strategic Planning Committee is tackling important fact-finding on issues like incorporation, dredging, and clubhouse renovation; while the Communications Committee (assigned on a temporary basis) is doing great work. Last but not least, the 50th Anniversary Committee, a great group led by Mark Leggett, put on a flawless event. It is easily the greatest event ever held at Lake Viking. By the way, some great pictures are in the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book which is available at the office.
Meanwhile, back to the budget. After the deficit budget of 2017 was passed, there were two schools of thought. One mentality was Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead – if they want a deficit, we’ll give them a deficit. The other perspective, the prevailing one, was a more responsible strategy – one of streamlining and stricter financial discipline that we felt obliged to provide for membership. In other words, membership has spoken and we were listening.
Therefore, our strategy became one that employed austerity and cost-cutting at every available opportunity. As a Finance Committee, our normal two-hour meetings became much longer and went from monthly to twice monthly. We scrutinized every line item, no matter how obscure and miniscule, from the phone bill to credit card fees to camper fees. Capital expenditures were deferred and cancelled. A breakthrough came when Lake Manager Shad Mort said, “We just came off the mildest winter ever with minimal seasonal road damage. We can save big-time on road maintenance.” We also decided to be more selective on maintenance mowing. Then, we realized windfalls on an increase on building permit fees and miscellaneous income as a result of actually MAKING MONEY on our 50th Anniversary activities.
Result: We operated in the black in 2017! But some of the cut in expenses cannot be deferred year after year.
Of course, the cynic will say: “See they were lying to us all the time. We never faced a deficit!” A more rational explanation is a combination of favorable circumstances: no abundant snowfall, no six-inch rains, and no major dam problems . . . any of which can be budget busters. With association members continuing to work together on committees and express concerns at board meetings, we weathered a potential storm and came out in pretty good shape.
Now as we turn the page, and embark on year 51 of our existence, we should start out without asking for a dues increase…but we have long-term issues that need to be addressed. It’s a good news/ bad news situation. The good news: Our new dredge greatly exceeded expectations. It’s a powerhouse, a workhorse! The bad news: Our dredge filled the existing sediment structure much quicker than anticipated, and now we are facing a big expense in the design and construction of a new engineered silt basin.
As a result, the board is presenting a plan to build a reserve for long term needs. We have scheduled a town hall meeting to roll out the plan to be presented at the Annual Meeting, while financial documents again will appear in this publication. The plan isn’t anything the board is trying to ram down memberships’ throats. Rather it is a presentation designed to address the future. We ask that members do as they have in the past: Listen to the plan; give it your consideration; and perhaps putting the wellbeing of the lake ahead of prejudices and personal agendas . . . and vote! As always, the future of Lake Viking is in the hands of you, the membership, and the decisions you make. And as always – believe it or not, we are listening.