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RSF Association President’s Corner: Thoughts of a retiring board member

I am permitting RSF Association board member Larry Spitcaufsky to write this week’s RSF Association President’s Corner column. — RSF Association President Philip Wilkinson

By Larry Spitcaufsky,

RSF Association board member

First, let me thank all the Covenant members for allowing me to serve you these past three years.  It has been a terrific learning experience about governance and our wonderful community.  Serving on the board has given me the opportunity to meet so many passionate and involved members.  I have learned to respect the traditions and history of the Covenant, and thanks to all the hard work and accomplishments of the past board members we have a wonderful community that we are fortunate enough to live in.  We need board members that represent our entire membership and that choose to unite our community not divide us.

As an outgoing board member I have some suggestions and thoughts.

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I recommend the 2014-2015 Association board bring to the Covenant membership an advisory vote to choose one of the three large financial projects that members are most concerned about.  Members could choose between high-speed internet, a health club and pool facility, or secondary water resources for the golf course. The vote information should include the estimated capital cost and annual operational expense, as well as the annual estimated restricted reserve expense associated with each project.  All this financial information should be approved and reviewed by our Association Finance Committee. The membership needs to make a formal decision so the board can focus on that priority.

We need board members that are willing to have an open dialogue with membership about our current assessment process.  If our current total assessment revenue was divided equally by our 1,930 assessed parcels each parcel would have an equal $2,500 annual assessment or about $200 a month per parcel.  Where can you live and have the privileges of a country club social membership, a dedicated security patrol, 50 miles of recreational and horse trails, a fabulous school, private parks, a dedicated support staff, and many other wonderful amenities for $200 a month?  This is a bargain.  All members share the same amenities no matter what the value of their property. There are several methods that could accomplish an equal assessment over a number of years that would be fair to all members and to our community.

I do want to personally thank the almost 300 Covenant Garden Club members.  It’s not often that a group offers a community a $2,300,000 donation for a Foundation that will benefit the community in perpetuity and it’s voted down.  The Garden Club members were very aware that if the purchase had been approved that with a subsequent Association vote the Garden Club building could have been resold on the open market and assuming the selling price was $2,300,000 or more the Community Enhancement Fund’s net effect would be zero.  Better than free is a great price!  Thank you Garden Club members, I think your generosity and loyalty to our community somehow got lost.

As Association Treasurer, the past two years, I have worked closely with the hard-working and dedicated members of the Finance Committees and board members from the Association, Golf Club and Tennis Club, their staffs, and our CFO Steve Comstock.  We have been very conservative in our budgeting process and taken our responsibility of overseeing our community resources very serious. Over a year and a half ago the two Finance Committees recommended to our board, and the board approved, a new software platform and supporting hardware to allow us to better financially serve the Covenant members and all our subsidiaries.  The new software program gives us better formatted data and modern management tools.  Beginning June 1, 2014, we will have a Flash Report available for the management of all subsidiaries, our boards, and the Association membership that will summarize monthly important financial information and create greater accountability.  Working with our New Compensation and Benefit Committee and with the important support of our staffs we will recommend to our board new policies that will save the Association well over a million dollars over the next four years. I know between the benefits of the new software, the employee benefits saving, reduced operational expenses, less wasteful legal expenses, and our assessment base increasing, future boards will have significant discretionary funds available to invest back into our community.

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This is the point that I was going to close, but after reading Phil Wilkinson’s President’s Corner column in last Thursday’s Review I have to admit I share his outlook as a board member. In addition to Phil’s comments, I want to make it very clear that I know very little about PIC. In the 10 years I have I lived in Rancho Santa Fe I have attended two of their meetings.  I have never heard PIC discussed in an Association board or executive meeting. I am insulted that anyone would suggest I or any of my fellow board members I have served with have voted on PIC’s behalf or for that matter on the behalf of any other group or prominent Association member.  Every vote I have been associated with the past three years was made based upon what I thought was best for the entire community.

I am tired of the word “transparent.” I truly believe the Association boards I have served on have been totally open and ‘transparent.” One of the first items our board supported was an improved website that would serve as a tool to communicate to the Covenant membership.  I encourage Association members to attend board meetings and be “transparent” with your board. We are there to serve and listen at the start of every board meeting.  The perfect example is the members that now eight years later are looking in the rear-view mirror at the Osuna purchase. If they had been “transparent” with their concerns and come to a board meeting they would have learned that we instituted a new Community Enhancement Policy two years ago that created specific procedures for property purchased with Enhancement funds. This policy procedure was approved by the board and eliminates any future community suspicions that still surround the Osuna purchase. This is an example of two-way “transparency,” members coming first to the board with their concerns would save valuable board and staff time and, in many cases, wasteful frivolous legal expenses. It would avoid unnecessary negative press that hurts us all.

I hope our members have not forgotten that we are a Homeowners Association.  We have so many qualified, experienced members living in the Covenant that I just hope the events of the last several months don’t discourage them from being future volunteers.

I’ll be playing golf more with my buddies, on my horse out on the trails, or watching old Westerns if anyone needs to get hold of me!

One of my favorite Western lines is where one cowboy ask another cowboy “How he knows when another cowboy is a hero?”  The cowboy responds, “A hero is a cowboy who dies with an arrow in his heart versus an arrow in his back.”  As a community we need to respect and appreciate our heroes, not discredit them.


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