story by Kim Souza
Bella Vista Property Owners Association is seeking a 62.5% rate increase in the monthly fees paid by homeowners in Bella Vista to combat a $60 million shortfall in reserves by 2023.
The rate increase, if approved by a majority vote, will be phased in over the next three years. The biggest step increase would be in year one as the $24 monthly assessment would rise to $37 in 2015, adding $1 in each of the next two years.
Unimproved lot owners could see their monthly assessments increase from $16 to $18 over the same three-year period, if the rate issue passes in the May election.
Tommy Bailey, general manager of the POA, said the higher assessments have been a longtime coming as the last increases were received in 2001 and 1984. Bailey spoke about of the need for the higher assessments at the recent Business Matters breakfast, a program of the Bentonville-Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce.
“We formed in 1965 and there were no inflationary triggers built into our governing documents. There have been just five increases in the past 49 years," Bailey said. “We cover 50 square miles and offer 126 holes of golf, 15 parks, outdoor pools, indoor pool and fitness centers and keeping these amenities up takes money.”
He said the goal of the proposed rate increases is needed to provide a sound financial future for the association, as well as maintain the level and quality of the amenities offered to local residents. In doing so, Bailey said property values should be favorably impacted.
The POA reports a $60 million shortfall in its 10-year baseline review out to 2023, if a rate increase is not obtained. Bailey said for the first time in years, the POA adopted a budget that allocated reserve funds for needed capital projects that could not be completed because of insufficient forecasted revenues from assessments and user fees. He said these expenditures are necessary to ensure that the recreation amenities are adequately maintained, and to protect property values. Additionally, the 2014 budget reduced operating expenses by more than $900,000 compared to 2013. These reductions represent a 14% cost savings in operational spending, Bailey said.
The POA board limited the increase to a three-year period, noting that if more money is needed, another election would have to take place at that time. Without an additional vote, assessments would remain at the 2017 level.
Bailey said the components of this campaign for higher assessments is to raise capital that can be used to improve current amenities, replace some aging amenities and add some new items for local residents.
He said if the higher assessment passes, property owners that pay the $37 rate will be able to use many of the amenities without the user fees that were tacked on about 20 years ago. The pools, tennis and fitness centers, shooting ranges, pavilion rental and lake and boat fees, will be all-inclusive in the $37 fee. Golf green fees will be reduced for those paying the higher assessments. Bailey said the lot owners who wish to have the inclusive amenities can pay the higher access fee and purchase a POA-issued photo identification card.
The POA authorized $7,500 to advertise the need of the assessment and the upcoming election. A POA forum to discuss the assessment is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 11 at Riordan Hall, and residents are invited to attend. The board's next regular meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20, in the board meeting room at the Bella Vista Country Club, 98 Clubhouse Drive. The meeting is open to the public.
Detailed information about the plan, a fact sheet, a proposed fee schedule, PowerPoint slides and frequently asked questions, are available on the association's website.