Philosophy: The Board of Directors needs to represent the residents of Blackstone. It should develop and implement policies and procedures which are respectful of each person who lives here. Rules should be applied uniformly and fairly. Residents should be permitted latitude and individual creativity in developing their landscape plans while keeping to the overall general plan for the community. The arbitrary and capricious nature of some current Design Review policies need to be changed.
Water Use: We live in a desert without significant local water sources. The people responsible for water planning for AZ tell us that it is only going to get worse. The cost of water for Blackstone has gone from $40,000 to $90,000 per year over the past three (3) years. I believe that we need to respect Mother Nature and reverse that trend. This would involve shutting off all irrigation to non-grass common areas (Those owned by the HOA). The original design of this community was for desert landscaping in common areas. We need to get back to that. This would also have the added benefit of reducing landscape maintenance costs and preventing a minimum six (6) figure replacement of the frequently breaking plastic poly pipe irrigation system now being used with PVC pipe and new lines.
If the community wishes to keep watering our desert and drought tolerant plants and replace the irrigation system, then, we should enter into an agreement with the City of Peoria for Reclaimed Water—if the water is currently available. This would cut our water costs in half or more overnight.
Cash Reserves: We currently have approximately $1,600,000 in reserves, and it is growing by $226,000/yr. (18% of our budget). These funds are designated for the maintenance and replacement of capital items like street sealing, etc. Based upon the Reserve Study last completed in 2013, some of these planned replacements are 30 years from now. Many are for small items like telephones and gate keyboards which could easily come from an annual contingency budget. However, prudent fiscal policy dictates that we maintain some level of appropriate reserves. No one wants a surprise special assessment.
I would implement a revolving reserve fund for the next ten (10) years with a five (5) year capital improvement budget updated each year. That is plenty of time to plan for major capital expenditures without all of us paying for improvements thirty (30) years down the road for someone else’s benefit. Are you setting aside money from your own personal funds to replace your roof, driveway, refrigerator, or irrigation system many years hence? Of course not! The freed up funds—which would be determined by a new Reserve Study done next year—would be used to: 1) Repair the deferred maintenance on our Parks and turf areas; 2) replace the current gates with lighter gates which do not break down every month; 3) identify and repair any other HOA common areas; 4) possibly put a shade structure over the children’s playground equipment at Ironwood Park; and 5) reduce monthly dues.
Gates: We spend over $150,000 on labor alone for our two (2) gates. I would recommend a complete review of the costs and benefits of having manned gates and any other options related to the gates which other communities have used successfully. The result of this analysis would then be sent to each resident. We would then vote on what types of security we wish to pay for knowing the pluses and minuses of each alternative.
This is now OUR community. This election will decide what kind of community you want Blackstone to be. If you want to live in a place which respects each individual, honors the desert we live in, and respects your dollars, I would be pleased to serve on your Board of Directors.