Getting board approval for your estate’s budget
5 Ways on getting the green light first time around2nd Dec 2021
The typical budget of an estate, whether bottom up or top down, can be anything upwards of R5 million and is often a very stressful juggling act for estate managers.
Nonetheless, there are ways you can make sure that your budget doesn’t get stuck in endless negotiations with board members.
To find out more, we garnered five valuable tips from Siobhan Coughlan, estate manager at both Bankenveld Estate and Bankenveld Golf Estate in Mpumalanga.
1. Know the difference between your needs and wants
The biggest obstacle for any estate manager is knowing what to include in the budget, and the best way to do this is to work out what the essential requirements for the estate are and then add on some of the nice-to-haves.
‘Having a list of non-negotiable necessities and possible desires allows you to better work out what you have to do and what you would like to do over a five-year span,’ says Siobhan.
Once you have this list, you can cross-check how much all of it will cost and compare this with previous expenditure. You will have better luck getting the budget approved if your figure is in the same ballpark as previous budgets – not if it is astronomically higher.
2. Don’t invent the wheel if you don’t need to
South Africa has more than 8,000 private residential estates with homeowners associations, each with its own budget, and according to Siobhan, an abundance of free-flowing information is readily being shared among estate managers.
‘The Association of Residential Communities (ARC) provides a wealth of guidance when it comes best practices. Their website has plenty of resources and templates that can easily be adapted to a particular estate. My advice to any estate manager would be to start with ARC,’ says Siobhan.
3. Know your board
Like everything else in the world, boards come in different sizes and are made up of individuals of different ages with varying agendas and ideas. Yet, even though the mind-set and make-up might vary, the principles of every board are essentially the same.
‘Every person budgets in their own way and some people are very set in their ways,’ says Siobhan. ‘Sometimes an estate manager might have a very set mind of how they would like their budget to be, so it is important that everyone works together.
‘A residential estate is essentially like a business and needs to run like one. Even though the two boards at Bankenveld Estate and Bankenveld Golf Estate are very different, with one being a lot younger than the other, they essentially want the same thing – to cut down costs. This shared aim helps make the approval process quicker and smoother,’ she says.
Siobhan also suggests that as a general rule, bigger estates tend to be stricter and getting approval can have many stumbling blocks, while in smaller estates there is more wiggle room and it can be easier to motivate.
‘Usually, we present out budget at the AGM and never circulate it beforehand, and we find this works well when it comes to obtaining approval,’ she explains.
4. Know your estate
A key responsibility of any estate manager is to know their estate, including their homeowners, and communication is therefore key. Only by knowing your homeowners can you better prepare for every eventuality.
‘At Bankenveld, we were able to keep our levy unchanged even during the pandemic. This is because we knew that a special levy increase would have a big impact on our homeowners. By keeping the levy unchanged, we were able to achieve a 95% collection rate during the height of the pandemic, which helped us as well as our homeowners.’
5. Pick your battles wisely
In some parts of the country estate managers are being forced to pay for work that should be conducted by government, and it’s proving to be a tricky tightrope, balancing the board’s aims and objectives with the everyday needs and concerns of residents.
‘The reality is that local municipalities cannot always assist in immediate repair work, and we find in most cases that our network of contractors can do the work quickly but at a cost,’ explains Siobhan.
Getting board approval for wanting to do something that is essentially the responsibility of the local council can be a challenge, so it’s important that you have strong reasons to motivate your suggestions.
‘Things that are clearly visible to residents – like road markings and potholes – are often easier to motivate for than larger projects like resurfacing an entire road, for example, which can cost in excess of R2.5 million,’ concludes Siobhan. Installing a generator to help with load shedding is another small win that will please both the board and your homeowners.