On our fees and our future

On behalf of the board I would like to wish our members a happy and prosperous new year.

We have circulated a note describing the increased fees which are now due and payable. We have heard some return comments expressing unhappiness at the increase. The increase was the result of a motion at the 2013 residents’ association annual general meeting (AGM).

I would like to briefly outline why the board brought this motion before our membership, and what was actually passed (with greater than 80% approval of members in attendance). My aim is to help answer some of the questions, including many from folks who were unable to attend either the barbeque we held on September 15, 2013 or the AGM.

How did we get here?
The Donsdale Residents’ Association was formed some time ago by Alldritt Land Corporation (ALC). ALC’s intent was always to step back and leave the boards’ operations to the residents. At the start of 2013, this change was effected when the two board members who were also employees of ALC resigned from the board.

The level at which the fees were set when the residents association was formed has been insufficient to sustain the level of services we have enjoyed to this stage. The result was a significant debt that accumulated each year. The details of this debt were presented at the AGM. Essentially, at the time ALC stepped back, the residents’ association owed ALC approximately $70,000. The board negotiated the forgiveness of 50% of this debt, so long as the residents’ association did not default on the terms of the repayment agreement. According to the terms of the agreement the board signed with ALC, in the event of default, the full amount would become due and payable.

Additionally, only minimal reserves were ever established. There are large one-time expenses in our future. Saving for those expenses will be essential going forward. For example, the fountain which provides important aeration to the stream course is coming to its end of life. Its replacement is expected to cost somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000.

What happened at the AGM?
In 2013, the board, consisting now entirely of Donsdale residents in 2013 reviewed their situation and decided to use a mechanism set out in the our bylaws to pass a motion to increase the fees. A motion was needed to increase fees above that due to inflation.

According to folks who have been living in Donsdale longer than I have, the attendance at the 2013 AGM was the highest it had ever been. Including proxies, approximately 60 members were in attendance. This high attendance was due in part to the efforts of the board to inform our membership of the increase.

Our board spent a great deal of time meeting with our members and discussing the finances and the future of the residents’ association. A note was sent to all our members informing them that the increase was coming. A barbeque was planned and hosted based on the efforts of the board and several additional members, on a minimal budget. This website was developed by one new board member to inform folks of events around the neighborhood – including the barbeque.

In my estimation, nearly 300 folks came out to the barbeque where the board was available to answer questions from our members about the increase and the value derived from our fees.

At the AGM, the board presented a short slideshow outlining the value derived from the services purchased with our fees. At the outset of the AGM, the board intended to bring forward a motion to increase the fees by nearly $300 / year. After nearly 3 hours of discussions, the members in attendance decided to approve an increase of $200 / year, and that this increase would be limited to debt repayment and reserve fund establishment.

What’s next?
The Properties of Donsdale Residents’ Association is now quite a separate entity from the developers of the neighborhood. That has not been true in the past. We are also separate from the city administration and our local community league. We look forward to maintaining healthy and productive relationships with all those groups in the future.

When our members built or bought in our neighborhood, they agreed to the restrictive covenant placed on their land title. Legally, that provides the board with the authority to collect our fees and manage the amenities that make our neighborhood special within the city of Edmonton. I think all our activities should align with our being good stewards of our members’ fees to provide the amenities that foster a sense of community. Ideally, that sense of community will make Donsdale a special place within the city of Edmonton in the years to come.

In closing, I would like to thank our past and current volunteers who have served on the board and helped out in all their different capacities. Particularly, I am looking forward to working with our board in the coming years.

All the very best wishes,

Mark Ballermann

President, Properties of Donsdale Residents’ Association