A new voting procedure for board elections won approval from the Hot Springs Village Property Owners’ Association board of directors at its January meeting last Wednesday.

POA staff will develop procedures to support changes, policies and elections.
Major points:

• Members must return ballots through the U.S. Postal Service directly to a third party who will provide them to the election chair on the day of counting. No envelopes will be opened prior to delivery to the election Chair.

• No ballot will be accepted from other means.

• Members will not receive a replacement ballot, even if lost, destroyed or becoming unusable.

• Candidates’ names will be printed in random order, with each candidate’s name appearing first on the ballot an equal number of times, to eliminate any disadvantage from a name appearing further down a list.

The proposal was developed by the board governance committee’s voting procedures review sub-committee. Vice chairman Tormey Compagna presented the proposal in new business in December and in current business this month.

In an email, the Voice on Monday asked the CEO, chair and vice chair how the POA would guarantee that members actually receive a ballot, such as delivery by certified mail, but had not received a response as of deadline.

In other business, upon the call to set current business, director Dianna Podawiltz told chair Cindi Erickson that she had the right to raise a question of the chair, under Robert’s Rules of Order.

Podawiltz said that appointing 2 former directors to the governance committee “goes against the spirit of our intent” when the board earlier voted to include 2 non-board seats in the charter.

Erickson, who also chairs the governance committee, said the charter includes no stipulation that qualified or disqualified any candidate. All were interviewed to learn about their experience and understanding of the governance committee’s purpose.

Former directors Mike Misch and John Weidert, who both served as president, will serve on the governance committee.

Podawiltz said she appreciated the clarification.

Chief executive officer/corporate secretary Lesley Nalley presented her report.

She praised chief financial officer Liz Mathis for quickly summarizing the 2019 year.

“While these results are preliminary, as in past years, they have been prepared conservatively in the hopes of avoiding any surprises,” she said. “The accounting team will continue to evaluate purchasing, bad debt and employee benefit activities to ensure proper accruals and accounting year capture.”

The audit report will be presented in April.

Nalley said capital spending outpaced depreciation.

Owners’ equity grew by $265,000.

The bottom-line operating budget by $259,000, or 0.7% of net revenue.

• Through capital spending controls, we remain able to fund reserves.

• 30 POA lots were sold

• The number of improved properties grew by 60
Other achievements:

• Worker’ Compensation insurance expense decreased 3.4% over 2018.000 under budget

• The community development and marketing division posted a $246,000 reduction over 2018 and was $338k under budget

“Why should we continue prioritizing new home construction and repairing our broken community funding model through alternative revenue streams?” she asked.

• There was a 2% decrease in net assessment revenue over 2018. She said the 2019 Consumer Price Index-Southern Region factor was 2.7%, while 2020’s is 1.1%.

• Before end of year write-offs, there were nearly 7,000 unimproved properties with assessment balances greater than $1,000, representing $3.3 million per year in lost assessment revenue. $4.9M of previously accrued bad debt was written off at the end of 2019.

• The 2019 provision for bad debt ended at $3.9M, which exceeds the $2.3-$3M annual “lift” expected from the two-tier assessment increase.
Director Mike Medica said the CPI’s decline by more than 50 percent would be a concern. The board can raise assessments by the CPI.

Podawiltz asked for an explanation of capital spending controls.

Nalley said the COO’s final report identifies unspent funds resulting from reprioritizing budget items,

“So basically we held these items so we can kick the can down the road, so that’s the control there?” Podawiltz said.

Nalley said the board will look at what to roll over and what not to roll over.

Podawiltz said 2 reasons assets rose were that the amount of land for resale rose, and the POA paid off $500,000 debt.

“You’re exactly right, which is what you want to see,” Nalley said.
Podawiltz said she would like to see it rising because of operating results

Podawiltz also questioned administrative savings, saying some positions were shifted to other departments, and that the community member enhancement officer position was unfilled until mid-year, when it was budgeted for the full year.

Nalley said positions were shifted, as planned, and said it was correct the CMEO position was filled in mid-year.

Campagna noted the strong U.S. economy and wondered how the Village is doing overall.

Noting the 2019 US. new home construction rate of 13.6 percent, “so we’re lagging there.”

Nalley said Arkansas has never had the highs nor lows of real-estate booms and busts.

Campagna said with more baby boomers retiring daily, the Village should be receiving more new residents.

How is the local region doing?

Nalley said the Saline County cities of Benton and Bryant were “growing way ahead of us” in  2014, adding that those cities are closer to many jobs.

Nalley said while our growth was somewhat lower, it was actually higher than some of surrounding  areas.

Also during this decade, the number of private communities potentially competing for retirees and relocators “grew exponentially,” Nalley said.

On golf, DeSoto, Coronada and Isabella golf courses exceeded 2019 revenue. Visitor golf was up $95,000 over 2019. There are 1,500 unimproved lots golf courses and lots

Campagna said the golf department was down 14,000 rounds on June 30, but made up close to 10,000 rounds in last 6 months, ending at 4,300 down for the year.

Campagna said the annual golf card is a good deal for those who play golf frequently. Those with a golf cart break even at 82 rounds annually. “Anyone who plays more than 1.6 rounds per week should be buying annuals,” he said.

Podawiltz asked for a footnote on items rolled back for the subsequent year, such as the $485,000 rolled back for Balboa dredging from 2019.

A question arose of only 3 annual passes sold so far for the outdoor pool.

“A lot of people might not buy a pass until the pool opens,” Mathis said.

Erickson said April was very late for a final report, noting that 3 directors are going off that month.

Nalley said the POA is closing the 2019 year though March, and might still be receiving invoices during that time.

“We prefer to wait until certain,” she said. But a preliminary report can be presented in March.

The POA had anticipated a “much larger recovery on 1 lawsuit than occurred,” Nalley said.

Nikki Choyce presented a Comprehensive Master Plan advisory committee report.

Created last spring, she said the committee is charged with meeting needs of property owners, the board and staff. To aid communication, CMPAC members are serving as liaisons on standing committees.

The committee makes recommendations on CMP budget priorities.

CMPAC  recommends an annual review of 2-year-old CMP

Also, the board approved the finance committee charter.

Podawiltz resigned as audit committee chair so she could chair the new committee.
Dixon said he was willing to serve as audit chair. He recommended Campagna as finance committee chair.

Campagna suggested Podawiltz as a better choice because of her financial background, but said he was willing to serve as a member.
Erickson appointed Podawiltz as chair and Campagna as a committee member.

The board also disbanded the board candidate information committee, which was formerly known as the board member recruitment committee

In new business, the board discussed third-party marketing services.

After interviews of the 2 interested agencies, the Sells Agency of Little Rock was recommended. CEO Mike Sells attended the meeting.

Nalley said the Sells Agency closely aligned with the POA’s needs.

Also, Sells offered to attend a trade show at its own expense to learn what people are saying.

Members can view 5 related documents in the POA administration building by making an appointment.

During director comments, Podawiltz said the evening Let’s Talk sessions will be held at the same set time monthly at the Coronado Community Center, through the April 15 board meeting.

Also, Village restaurants need community support, she said.

Mike Medica, citing chief operating officer Jason Temple’s report, asked about energy savings from replacing 5 heating, ventilation and air conditioning units.

Temple said the new units have better SEER ratings and there should be some immediate savings in repair bills. He will bring a report in February.

Campagna said several reasons exist to visit Village restaurants: “Convenience, good food, reasonable prices and good service.

During public comments, Cheryl Dowden asked why there are no governance committee minutes online.

Erickson said she would find out, adding that many topics the committee handles are confidential.

The marketing plan was attached to the Oct 19 board packet, Nalley said. Members may come and inspect it.

Dowden said she agrees with Dixon – not many people attend committee meetings. She said in reality, many cannot attend for many reasons.

She encouraged staff to record meetings and place online. She also asked for closed captioning to aid the hearing impaired.

“Why can’t we bring the meetings to the people?” Dowden asked.

Lloyd Sherman asked about the effect of forced golf course closures on restaurants.Sherman said he realizes the methodology and mostly concurred with it when it was approved.

“But I’m not sure closing 2 restaurants daily was a good choice,” he said, adding that one operator told him of uncertainty in making it through February. Sherman said he’s also heard from builders that new fees effective Jan. 1 will have a negative impact on construction.

Kirk Denger said the Explore the Village theme could be tied in with explorer Hernando DeSoto.

Robert Bussey said that while David Twiggs served as general manager, the POA logo was changed. “At the time I thought it was a mistake, and still do,” Bussey said. He believes the current logo is “very outdated, very bland and does absolutely nothing for anybody when you look at it.” He suggested a “more modern and aggressive” logo.

The original logo featured a Spanish conquistador explorer.

Upon opening the meeting, Erickson invited all board candidates to stand. All five were attending: Choyce, Denger, Richard Garrison, Tucker Omohundro and Sherman.

She also recognized Richard McGrew, Republican nominee for House District 22. McGrew also attended December’s board meeting.

The board packet can be read under the governance heading in the member’s section of www.explorethevillage.com. A video can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqdohvQ6u5M.