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Following a budget workshop last week, the Rancho Murieta Association is headed for a 2.96 percent dues increase of $4 a month.  If the proposed 2018 budget is approved, the monthly assessment RMA members pay would be $139 starting in January.

Directors will vote on the budget at this month’s board meeting.

The one-hour workshop Wednesday evening began with a summary of revenue and expense items for the budget.  RMA anticipates additional income of $13,000 from its cable system lease agreement with Greenfield Communications due to an increase in the rate for basic TV. A revenue decrease of $15,000 from road mitigation fees is budgeted because of limited new home construction. “We’re not really planning on any new homes coming on from the developer. That’s what we’ve been told,” General Manager Greg Vorster said.

On the expense side, a $10,000 decrease in the association’s write-off of bad debt reflects an improving economy, with fewer homes going into foreclosure, Vorster said.

He attributed a $34,830 increase in health costs to a 3 percent increase in premiums and the conversion of two part-time positions into a full-time compliance officer position.

The proposed budget includes a $7,000 decrease in insurance premiums, increased reserve funding of $30,000, and $44,350 in salary increases that work out to 2.8 percent for administration and 3.1 percent for union employees.

Director Bob Lucas questioned whether increasing the budget for legal fees from $40,000 to $50,000 in the proposed budget was adequate since the actual cost for legal fees this year is about $70,000. “Do we really anticipate having $20,000 less in legal expenses in 2018 than we actually experienced in 2017?” he asked.

Vorster said he didn’t know where the association would be with legal costs next year, noting, “These last two months our legal costs have been almost zero...”

“A lot of it’s dependent on development and the progress of development,” Lucas said.

Speaking of legal costs for 2017, Director Sam Somers Sr. said, “I think that was money well spent. ... If we hadn’t had that legal counsel, I think we would really be behind the eight-ball in some of this stuff. So I would not be opposed to beefing it up. ... I don’t know what the hell is going on with the developer, I guess that’s where I’m at.”

Vorster said the association has cut operating expenses in the last months of the year to compensate for an overage in legal costs in the past, and “We can always do that if we have to.”

Lucas called the $50,000 in the 2018 budget “a good number. ... Actually, I hope it’s half that ... and I do think a lot of the heavy work has been done up to this point.”

The directors discussed fees the association charges for use of park facilities and other amenities, and recommended raising all non-Murieta group use fees by $50.

The budget increase of $4 a month accommodates board goals to fund projects that include the future Escuela gate, lighting Riverview Park tennis and basketball courts, turf replacement and post-and-cable fencing at Stonehouse Park, and Laguna Joaquin improvements. Additional funding will be provided by the Exclusive Use Fund.

The board identified goals for 2018 at a workshop held last month.

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