Lake officials considering requesting $300 annual dues increase

By Heather Michon

Lake Monticello officials are considering asking members to approve a dues increase of around $300 in 2024.

The suggestion came during the first look at the 2024 budget at an open work session held by the Board of Directors on Nov. 1.

“This is a hard-candy Christmas budget, folks,” said Director of Finance and Administration Mike Warner. “But with costs going up like they are, and our dues increase being held at three percent, we’re kind of struggling to pay for things.”

Among the financial headwinds facing the budget committee are a potential increase of 10 percent for insurance, a 10-15 percent increase in costs of benefits, and a nine percent increase in trash and recycling fees.

There are also the ongoing costs of maintaining the golf course, food and beverage services, and the seasonal pool. 

Troon, the management company that runs these programs, is looking at a $583,000 loss in 2023, mostly from the food and beverage service. Losses in 2024 are projected to be around $400,000. But in one bit of positive news, golf is on track to break even for the first time, and may even post a modest profit.

Warner and LMOA General Manager Tom Schrader said they were actively renegotiating the contract with Troon to build in incentives for meeting or exceeding budget targets and penalties for failure to meet benchmarks.

Traditionally, Operations shifts $300,000 to the Reserve funds each year. In this budget, they may instead pull that $300,000 out of interest-bearing accounts and the Property Transfer Fund (PTF). The PTF is funded by the $800 Lake residents pay when they sell their homes.

Other potential cuts could come from eliminating positions, cutting departmental budgets, and putting off high-ticket projects.

“We’re not running out of money,” Warner stressed. “We’ve got $8.8 million on the balance sheet at the end of September.” 

However, much of the LMOA’s money is tied up in emergency and reserve funds that are difficult to access. Raising dues is the most direct way to increase the cash funds the Lake needs for its core functions. 

“I’m asking homeowners to consider over the next few months a dues increase that will cost around 80 cents a day,” said Treasurer Mike Kelly. “And you all can do the math on that.”

Doing the math, $0.80 per day for 365 days is $292. 

Current annual dues for most homes at the Lake are $955.35 and will rise three percent to $984.01 for 2024. Residents also currently pay $282.90 for trash, recycling and storm cleanup.

“Do you think there’s any chance that this will pass?” asked one resident.

“I’m hoping, after we inform everybody about where their money would go for that and what it would do, that we will get some takers,” said Kelly. “Yes, sir.”

Once the full budget is complete, Lake officials will have several months of informational meetings and town halls to convince people to vote in favor of the dues increase. 

They are very aware that they will have to make this argument at a time when Lake residents are also looking at a 30 percent increase in their water and wastewater costs – a situation over which the LMOA has almost no control. 

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