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Leaders to keep close eye on budget

RANCHO SANTA FE — Association members will soon be receiving Audited Financial Statements for 2007-2008 in the mail. Chief Financial Officer Steve Comstock presented the board with the balance sheet, income statement and statement of changes in the financial position for the fiscal year at the Oct. 16 meeting.
The board recently hired ATK, LLP, an auditing firm specializing in homeowners associations, to review and make recommendations for the next budget. Ron Mitchel, a partner with ATK, was with Comstock to present the statement to the board at its recent meeting. “We got fresh eyes to look at it (the report) and they did a very thorough job,” Covenant Manager Pete Smith said. “We were very pleased with their efforts.” The board approved the printing and mailing of the statements to the membership, which will be sent out later this month.
At the board meeting, Comstock also submitted the 08-09 Assessment Rate. According to the San Diego County Assessor’s roll, the total valuation of all Covenant properties as of July 1, 2008, was $4.16 billion, representing a 5.22 percent increase over last year’s assessment valuation of $3.95 billion. However, this assessment was lower than the $4.2 billion estimated during the budget process last year. “This is a novel year — experiencing a downturn,” Comstock said. “The staff will need to take a good, hard look at what is going on.”
Why the lower assessment rates? According to Comstock, there are primarily two reasons: last year’s Witch Creek Fire and the downturn in the real estate market. “Eighteen homes were lost in last year’s fire and were revalued at a lower rate,” explained Comstock. “So the county had to roll back the rates.” Comstock presented charts depicting past assessments increasing as much as 10 percent per year. “We’re down 50 percent, so we’ll need to look at the number of properties being built and the properties not selling,” he said.
The board approved the assessment rate for the next fiscal year at 14 cents per $100 property valuation. The allocation of these funds remains steady at 11 cents for General Services and 3 cents for Open Space.
In other association news, Block C Partners, owner of Pantry, requested a ground-mounted sign to hang from a post mounted in a landscaped planter bed in front of the restaurant. Despite the Art Jury’s recommendation of the application, the board felt differently. “The Pantry is entitled to better signage,” President Lois Jones said. “But why such a big sign?” The board of directors debated the size of the sign and the height of the post, not wanting to establish a precedent that would allow other businesses in the future to ask for bigger and bolder signs as well. In the end, the Pantry was allowed a new sign, but a smaller version of the one they requested and one that is on a shorter post.
As a reminder, ballots for the bylaw change are due back to the Association by Nov. 17 and a meeting regarding the outcome is scheduled for Nov. 18.
The next Association board meeting will be Nov. 6.