BOARD BUZZ – November 2021
Mary Cheston, President
And then there were two…
This month Mark Burgess and I are focused on finalizing the Association’s 2022 budget for presentation to the community with the able assistance of our Finance Committee. It is clear that there needs to be a much-needed change of mindset from what we’ve employed in the past on the part of all of us homeowners.
We can no longer seek the best deal/lowest possible HOA dues or expect to artificially link the NTRA budget to inflation or CPI. Underfunding our Association does long term damage both to our physical plant and our reserves. This year with professional advice, we have critically evaluated what it costs to operate and maintain our community and save for the future. For many homeowners there will be a big assessment increase in 2022. Because we are following our documents, assessments will look somewhat different as well (except for the Village Walk neighborhood). To further understand why an increased assessment is needed, be sure to read Treasurer Everett Lunsford’s article this month on our “2022 Budget Challenges.”
Exciting news! We will soon welcome a new management company to serve our Association. Effective December 1, Chesapeake Bay Management Inc. will take over as the NTRA management company. Chesapeake Bay manages nearly 100 communities in Southeastern Virginia, has strong technological capabilities, and is committed to making positive change in our community. During the selection process, Chesapeake impressed the Board with its commitment to customer service, “can do” attitude, frankness, and overall expertise. Chesapeake also provides value for the money because their management fee is all inclusive, saving us the myriad fees and pass-through costs of our current contract. Best of all, the NTRA will have a full-time dedicated manager.
In the meantime, there is a massive amount of Association data and history to share. This records transition work will consume much of Town Management’s attention this month, so please be patient with your requests. We want as smooth a turnover as possible, especially given the imminent beginning of a new fiscal year. There will be a learning curve for everyone involved.
In mid-November homeowners will be officially notified by Chesapeake with information about how to set up your dues accounts. A different bank will be involved in handling NTRA’s accounts, so expect to change your automatic assessment payments for January 1, 2022. Keep an eye out for this important communication.
November is America’s traditional month of sharing and Thanksgiving. In that spirit, I would like to thank my colleagues who beginning in June 2020 served on the homeowner Board of Directors. Despite the roller coaster ride to get here, your ideas and involvement helped us accomplish several important projects to improve New Town’s common areas and operations.
Thanks also to Town Management, which at the end of the month will conclude 15 years as the management company for the NTRA. From dirt piles to developed neighborhoods, Town Management has watched and lived the transformation of our community and all of its growing pains.
The volunteers who staff our NTRA Committees also deserve a big thank you. The Board especially appreciates the recent work of our Management Company Search Committee - Bill Voliva, Mike Reilly and Everett Lunsford - who expeditiously screened applicants to fill the critical role of our management company. A big shout out to our expanded Communications team who stepped up to assist me - our new Crier editor, writers, and all those who contributed clear and compelling messages on the need to change our documents. That said, we are always in the market for additional help.
A final note of personal thanks to my support system – my unflappable husband Ric and dear Charlotte Park neighbors/friends who have shared a kind word or a laugh (often with a glass of wine) and constantly remind me that the Board is only volunteers, doing the best we can with the cards we were dealt by the Developer Board. New Town is a great community to live in, and these moments rally me.
It is so important for all of us to keep working towards having the Association on sound footing-both legally and financially. We look forward to seeing all of you via Zoom at the November 19th 2022 Budget presentation. We are at the start of the holiday season and embarking on a new chapter in our community’s history. Let’s make it an exciting, memorable beginning.
The Search is Over!
Bill Voliva, Chair, NTRA Management Search
In late August, the Board of Directors (BOD) appointed a three-member Search Committee to find a new management company for our Association. As of November 31, 2021 Town Management, the NTRA’s longtime management company, will no longer be providing property management services to the NTRA. The timeframe looked daunting, but we committed to do our best to meet this challenge.
The committee identified and notified ten property management companies within the eastern Virginia area to determine who may be interested in becoming the property management company for the NTRA.
A Request for Proposal (RFP) for Professional Management Services, developed and approved by the BOD, was provided to each company. The RFP solicited proposals to establish a management agreement through competitive negotiations for professional management services for the NTRA.
Five management companies requested and participated in individual on-site interviews and tours of New Town; each company subsequently submitted proposals by the September 15, 2021 due date.
The Search Committee then conducted a lengthy review of the submitted proposals, pursued additional committee questions/clarifications, and had discussions with provided references.
From the five applicants, the Committee recommended three companies that stood out and were worthy of a final BOD interview. We felt that any one of these three finalists could serve the NTRA well as a potential management company.
I also participated as an observer with the NTRA BOD and officers in the final interviews. The dialogue was frank and the responses enlightening. Overall, the entire selection process was open and thorough. Best of all – we met the dates to provide a month’s transition period between the companies. Challenging timing to say the least!
My thanks to Everett Lunsford and Mike Reilly for joining me on this mission. The NTRA is indeed fortunate that we will have a new partner like Chesapeake Bay Management Company on our journey as a community.
Your Assessment $$$ at Work - A Photo Recap
There has been a lot of activity around our community this month completing, upgrading and repairing much needed work. Attached are photographs and a brief description of what has or is in the process of being completed. Please walk around New Town and check it out!
The playground has a new layer of much needed mulch and directly affecting how the mulch will be kept dryer is the French drain that was dug this week on the other side of the sidewalk from the playground and at the bottom of the hill in back of the pool. No more dirty puddles on the sidewalk!
A lot is going on in the pool area. A new strip of concrete was put down recently to make more room for chairs. The pool pergola has been repaired and is awaiting a final paint coat. The pool was resurfaced. It was a huge messy job, but maybe some of you saw the work in progress. Spreading the concrete the men wear a contraption on their feet that look like Hans Brinker’s metal skates. We all look forward to a smoother surface next summer.
Our parks have also received extra attention this year. Please notice the benches in the common areas that have been carefully sanded and stained by two residents Bob Dennis and Mike Reilly! The sandbox in the Lydias Drive playground was repaired by Kelly Mihalcoe and Eden Glenn. Thank you for all your hard work and volunteer time. Dead trees were also cleaned out of Roper Park earlier this spring.
The path at Chelsea Green has recently been scraped, leveled out and is awaiting the delivery of new stone. While this repair is a work in progress it is long awaited, having been deferred due to the 2020 pandemic. This repair continues across Discovery Park Avenue through the Veterans Park.
Earlier in September you may recall the large paving machines that entered Charlotte Park and the odor of the resurfacing of Bettys Lane and Julies Way. The new surfaces are complete.
Next time you're out for a walk in our lovely neighborhood, take a moment to notice all the improvements!
2022 Budget Challenges
Everett Lunsford, Treasurer
2021 has been a year where the NTRA Board and the Finance Committee experienced great learning about our New Town community. It is also a year none of us want to experience again.
Early in the year we realized significant unbudgeted expenses would occur. So in April Town Management was directed to improve our liquidity by shifting home closing replacement reserve contributions to the operations reserve fund (the situation eased by September, so this practice was discontinued in October 2021). As a result, the Association has not been able to substantially contribute to our replacement reserves this year.
The largest unbudgeted operating expense is legal fees. The owner challenges to the NTRA budgeting process that started in 2020 continued into 2021. Reviewing the assessment allocation process defined in the existing Governing Documents (which has not been followed in any of the past budgets and allocations) led the Board to decide to revise the documents. Even though 2/3 homeowner approval is required for the document changes, the Board hoped for community approval in time for the 2022 budget. That proved extremely optimistic.
Another large expense was the audit of the 2020 NTRA financials. This first-time audit was performed by Adams, Jenkins and Cheatham, a Richmond based CPA firm specializing in community association audits and financial consulting. An audit of transition year financials is considered best practice by the Community Association Institute, and the Board, with Finance Committee recommendation, decided this was an important task even though unbudgeted. NTRA and Town Management received a clean audit report.
COVID continued to affect New Town, with additional staffing required for pool operations during the summer. Inspections of the pool led to unplanned repairs to equipment and to the pool pergola. The inspections also determined the pool requires resurfacing, which is being done now. The resurfacing will be paid from replacement reserve funds, but the work is occurring 2 years earlier than the 2019 reserve study anticipated. The replacement reserve fund also covered the pool pergola repair, but the work was required 15 years before expected. In light of the early pool failures, the Board decided to add a winterization service to the pool operating expense to hopefully extend its life.
Other significant unplanned expenses were related to trees (dead tree and limb removal in Roper Park and street tree replacements), playground (refresh of the playground mulch and installation of an underground drain to divert water away from the walkway to Roper Park) and hiring additional expertise (an HOA consultant on the budget process and a company to conduct a new replacement reserve study.)
The biggest financial challenge will be replacing our management company. A new managing agent will bring significant operational changes, along with a higher management fee.
The Finance Committee started working with the HOA consultant on developing the 2022 NTRA Budget in July. With 2021’s expense overages, the Finance Committee, and the Board, have realized our basic problem is ensuring a complete operating expense budget. The 2022 budget development is focused on identifying and incorporating deferred maintenance needs and better meeting resident expectations for a well maintained and effectively managed community.
New Town’s financial history is not the best guide for predicting operating expenses. There is good data in some categories, but poor or no data for maintenance related categories. The Developer Board constrained annual increases in the budget, and maintenance needs were often not addressed. As the community aged and maintenance started becoming necessary, significant maintenance expenses were paid out of the replacement reserve fund beginning in 2018 (Reserves should be used for replacement items only). So in the 2022 Budget, the Board is trying to create a Maintenance Plan as part of operating expenses.
While no final budget decisions have been made yet, here are some expected highlights of what 2022 will bring. The Board has committed to follow the Association’s existing Governing Documents, as much as possible, in presenting the budget and calculating assessments. The 2022 assessments will likely consist of:
A General Assessment, which will be the same for all New Town Residential homes. All the general expenses for operating and maintaining the Association, including landscape expenses for common areas, will be in this component.
A Neighborhood Assessment (largely for landscape expenses) that is allocated based on services to lots within each neighborhood. The irrigation startup/shutdown service provided to detached homes would be included as a Limited Common expense. Whereas Village Walk has always received a separate neighborhood breakout, each New Town neighborhood will have its own fees shown in 2022.
The Finance Committee and the Board think we have identified the additional expenses required for a realistic 2022 Operating Budget. Assessments to cover these expenses will require a noticeably larger increase than past budgets. The Board must then determine how much additional money to contribute to the replacement reserve funds.
The largest drivers of the operating expense increase are the management company fees and the legal fees. The new management contract with Chesapeake Bay Management includes a full-time manager and other services. Our new manager is expected to bring focused professional staff to monitor the community and its contractors, and help resolve many complaints across New Town. Chesapeake has an integrated system better able to collect and track issues and homeowner accounts. While all of us look forward to this opportunity, understand it will take time to implement improvements and see the effects.
Anticipated legal costs are largely related to the continuing document changes. For 2022, the NTRA needs to relook at its Rules and Regulations, and the Shared Amenities Agreement with the New Town Commercial Association. Continued questions raised by the community about the proposed Governing Document revisions are a large and unpredictable component of the legal fee budget. Can we come together for a vote? As questions and challenges continue, so do the legal fees.
Added maintenance categories also bring the potential for cost increases, especially given the higher prices since the pandemic for commodities and services.
Village Walk: The inspection for the new replacement reserve study revealed issues with the older Village Walk townhome exteriors. The 2021 budget assumed that Village Walk exterior painting would start in 2023. That painting needs to start in 2022, and will include some repairs not in the painting budget. There has also been an increase in roof and trim repairs this year which could require Association claims against the builder. As a result, the Village Walk assessment for these exterior maintenance services will also have a noticeable increase.
Replacement Reserve: The replacement reserve fund will have decreased at year end. Until the new replacement reserve study is available sometime in November, it will be hard to assess the status of the reserve fund. With the effort required for the transition to a new management company, expect the replacement reserve situation to be more fully addressed by a new Board when we develop another budget for 2023.
Capital Contributions and Administrative Fees: These fees, paid at closing for new home sales and resales, were increased for the 2021 budget. The fees will continue unchanged for the 2022 budget.
As you can see, developing the 2022 budget and related assessment process is, and will continue to be, a challenging endeavor. The transition to a homeowner-controlled board, the issues related to Governing Documents raised at the 2020 annual meeting, and the search for a new managing agent fueled a most difficult year for your Board and the Finance Committee. Join us for the 2022 budget briefing on November 19th at 6PM via Zoom. (More information will be posted on the NTRA website.)
Native American Indian Heritage Month—November
November is Native American Indian Heritage Month, and it aims to provide a platform for Native People to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways and concepts of life. It recognizes the contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States. If you wish to celebrate or find out more about the impact of Native American Indians in Williamsburg and Virginia, there is a lot going on in the local area.
On our doorstep at Colonial Williamsburg, if you visit the American Indian Encampment site, you can explore the lives of American Indians who came to Williamsburg with regularity in the 18th century to discuss matters of trade, warfare and diplomacy. There is no single story of Native American Indians in Williamsburg. Each tribe and nation had their own interactions here in the city. You can meet and learn from their American Indian interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg, who celebrate the American Indian culture, tell the histories of their communities and help to explore the culture of Native peoples who are striving to preserve their traditional way of life. During your visit and conversations with the interpreters, you will also be able to learn about the roles they played in creating a new country.
In addition, if you take a walk around the College of William and Mary, look out for the Brafferton Building, which was the home of the Indian School at William and Mary. Using funds from the estate of British scientist Robert Boyle, the college of William and Mary established a school to educate young Indian men in 1697, just four years after the college’s founding. The American Revolution caused British financial support to cease in 1776 and the school soon closed.
To learn more about Native American Heritage month, take a look at this website.
Quick Getaways, November—The Mariners’ Museum and Park, Newport News
The Mariners’ Museum makes the bold claim that it is “a steward of one of the world’s most extensive maritime collections, committed to the preservation and conservation of more than 32,000 objects and several million library and archive materials.”
Make of that what you will, but the Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and follows its standards of care to ensure the survival of the collection for generations yet-to-come.
It has been that way for more than 90 years, spurred by the shared vision of Archer Milton Huntington and Homer L. Ferguson, two giants of Newport News history. Huntington’s personal library of maritime books formed the core of the museum’s library, now numbering nearly 110,000 books, 800,000 photos, films, and negatives and more than 1 million pieces of archival material. That makes it the largest maritime library in the Western Hemisphere.
Library browsing isn’t everyone’s cup of grog. Among the myriad of things to see and experience too numerous to mention is the USS Monitor Center, an Award-winning exhibition that is a melding of artifacts, original documents, paintings, personal accounts, interactives and environments devoted to the epic Civil War battle between ironclads Monitor and Merrimac. It tells that story in a way the public has never seen before.
Visitors may walk down a mock deck and enter the CSS Virginia as she is being built for battle, step inside the battle theater and experience the action of the Battle of Hampton Roads, visit the living quarters of sailors as part of a full-scale reproduction, view the Monitor’s propeller and engine register and many other artifacts, 210 tons in fact.
In short, this is a 550-acre park which houses a museum offering theater, lectures, discussions, programs, dining and shopping. It’s at least a full day, maybe more depending on your variety of interests.
According to its website, admission is priced at $1. Add another $6 for admission to see the 3D movie. The museum is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., closing only on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For more information, visit the website https://marinersmuseum.org/ or phone 757-596-2222.
New Town Trail Superhero—A Man and His Dog
Out for our morning walk a few weeks ago my husband and I met a dog, Auggie, as he came running out from the trail at the end of Discovery Park Avenue by the maintenance building. Coming after him was Mike carrying a large bag full of trash and a grabber tool. Chatting briefly, we introduced ourselves and met Mike who we assumed lived in New Town since he was cleaning up our trails between the two bridges. Actually, he works at SDV Solutons Inc. and does not live in New Town. Every Friday Mike brings his dog to work with him, and often his wife accompanies them as well. He collects trash on his walks and helps keep our community clean.
So the next time you venture out for a trail walk, maybe we could all follow Mike’s enthusiasm and bring a trash bag with you to keep the trails clean. Thank you, Mike!
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What Makes a Good Board Member?
Town Crier Staff
A few points from the experts at Community Associations Incorporated:
Qualities of a Good Board Member
- Committed to the best interests of the community as a whole
- Relevant experience or background
- Previous volunteer service
(Source: The Board Member Tool Kit, CAI.)
If you know someone in New Town who fits this bill, reach out and ask him/her to run for the NTRA Board of Directors!