BY BARBARA SCHNEIDER
The 2023 POA budget and a proposed fee for rental-property owners were the focus of discussion for the POA board—and questions from property owners—during the Big Canoe POA Open Budget meeting on Nov.10 and the regular POA Board meeting on Nov. 17.
POA General Manager Scott Auer covered the proposed 2023 budget in detail on Nov. 10; the board voted to approve the 2023 budget at the Nov. 17 regular board meeting.
The biggest change was the decision to focus on amenities as independent business units for budget purposes. Increased amenity costs will be covered within each amenity’s annual budget and covered through annual amenity memberships—not folded into the overall general assessments. This approach transfers the cost increases of each amenity to their users rather than all Big Canoe property owners.
“We are looking at the individual amenities more as independent businesses. In 2023, the burden of improving an amenity is part of the fee for that amenity,” explained Auer. “The property-owner amenity members who use a particular amenity, and in many cases have input into proposed improvements, help cover those costs.”
As an example, Auer noted the golf and greens committee meets with golf maintenance regarding the condition of the courses. Amenity members generally use the amenity more frequently than non-members and have input into amenity upgrades, repairs and usage changes. In 2023, these costs will not be folded into property owners’ monthly dues or guest fees. “No guest fees will be increased,” Auer added. “We did a major increase in our amenity guest fees in 2022 and feel we are well-positioned versus other communities’ guest fees for 2023.”
Auer reviewed each amenity, explaining the reasons for any membership fee increases as well as any expected operational changes.
“Continuing our policy from this year,” he announced, “the Clubhouse will not close for non-property owner events.”
The Clubhouse will have some seasonal changes, he said. During January and February, it will close on Mondays and Tuesdays but some operating hours will be expanded from April through October to give property owners more flexibility to eat at the Clubhouse.
Golf operations will increase annual individual and family fees by about 5% to offset cost increases, largely driven by inflation for golf course maintenance materials and services.
There will be no changes to the Wellness Center’s amenity fees even though plumbing repairs are planned. The Wellness Center fees are appropriate given the other fitness center choices in the area outside Big Canoe, Auer said. Beach Club amenity members will see a 3% amenity fee increase.
The Racquet Club will add new hours, extending playing time to 7 p.m. from May through September. There will be a 4% annual amenity increase to offset the extensive racquet club renovations begun in 2021 and continuing through 2023.
Auer described the POA’s 2023 plans for the Marina to replace the worn-out fleet of current rental craft with a new fleet of eight pontoon boats and also add a new outdoor “gathering” space and fire pit on the left side of the Marina building.
The 2023 budget includes increased monthly property and homeowner assessment fees. For homeowners, the $20 monthly increase will include $5 toward capital assessments and $15 for operations. The change—largely the result of inflation—reflects increased costs and regular maintenance expenses as well as additional requirements.
As an example, Auer pointed to planned 2023 tree trimming/removal along road shoulders plus clearing out overgrown plants and small trees in the ditches (used as shoulders) along Big Canoe’s 88 miles of roads.
“Our roads do not have curbs to guide rain coming down the mountains into sewers,” said Auer. “We have 80 miles of ditches to catch and move rainwater off roadways—and they need to be cleaned and cleared of debris.” An enhanced program to remove invasive species is also planned for 2023.
Other estimated 2023 infrastructure costs include increased insurance rates, higher garbage collection fees, expanded road maintenance and salary adjustments for many employees.
The salary adjustments are the result of an employee compensation study conducted by Kathy Jones, the POA’s new director of Human Resources, over the summer.
“We ran a benchmark study to see how our salary rates compared to comparable jobs in the Jasper and Dawsonville area,” Auer explained. “Our HR director matched job duties for each Big Canoe position with those in the local area and based her recommendations on that comparison.” The result, he said, showed Big Canoe was well below the Jasper area in many key positions, making it even more difficult to recruit the top talent Big Canoe needs for its future.
The 2023 capital budget includes funding for anticipated maintenance projects designed by Geosyntec on Petit Dam as well as roads and road shoulders.
The board voted to approve the 2023 budget at the Nov. 17 regular board meeting. The board also voted to raise the capital contribution fee from $3,000 to $3,500 in 2023. POA President Amy Tropfenbaum noted the CCF applied to the purchase of each home in Big Canoe has raised $1.2 million.
Along with voting for new POA board members, Big Canoe property owners have an opportunity to vote yea or nay on a proposed annual $175 fee for property owners who lease their Big Canoe homes. Results of the lease administration fee and board member votes will be presented at the POA’s annual meeting at the Big Canoe Chapel at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3.
The December meeting will include a presentation on the proposed Big Canoe master plan, including the postal facility, renovations to The Clubhouse at Lake Sconti, marina parking improvements and Canoe Lodge refurbishment.
To view videos of Big Canoe’s POA meetings go to the Big Canoe POA Media Channel @bigcanoepoamediachannel9585
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