An open letter to Steiner Ranch Master Association Board and Steiner homeowners

The Steiner Ranch Master Association board of directors meeting on Aug. 29.

Read at the Aug. 29 board meeting at Towne Square

Dear SRMA Board and Fellow Owners,

As a homeowner, and former Board member, I came to (the Aug. 29) meeting to express my opinion on the recent communications regarding the HOA’s consideration of changing management structures. In the various communications that I have seen regarding the change in management structure, the communications from the SRMA Board appear to be misleading, and seemingly attempt to hide what the Board has done and continues to do in non-open sessions.

First, to those who don’t know, whether to change the management structure was put forth to last year’s SRMA Board and was soundly rejected. Without speaking for the rest of last year’s SRMA Board, my opposition was based on the lack of a clearly stated need to change the management structure, the poor comparables to any other similarly-sized community, and failure to survey the community-at-large to understand what service levels the owners expect from the SRMA.

The primary stated reason to change management structure was to increase “operational efficiency.” Operational efficiency, however, is not improved solely by lowering costs, which seems to be the main reason to switch. And, while used by many organizations, what is the best way to maximize operational efficiency varies for each organization. In other words, how to operate a Fortune 500 company more efficiently may be drastically different from how to operate the SRMA more efficiently.

The question should not be how the SRMA can cut costs without considering the impact to homeowners. The question should be how the SRMA can best use its resources (primarily, the revenue from the assessment fees) to best serve the needs and wants of the community.

Indeed, a suggestion was made last year to conduct a survey of the community and implementing the results into the next operating budget. Again, speaking for myself, this did not happen because of the proposal’s proximity to the budgeting process.

Now, the Board seems to be well down the path of deciding whether to change management structures without even conducting a survey of the residents, despite the Long Range Planning Committee developing a “proposed survey for review,” as reflected in the Board’s May meeting minutes.

Further, we the homeowners must ask ourselves, “What happens if the SRMA switches from being self-managed, and the new management structure provides inferior services and/or response?” As these outside management companies are for-profit entities, if we are not satisfied, how easy would it be to change to a better management company? If we want to go back to self-management, why would anyone risk working for the SRMA after seeing the current management team’s termination?

Moreover, if the SRMA switches from self-management, all the institutional knowledge that has been gained by the current staff, some of whom have worked for the SRMA for more than 10 years, will already have been lost. These are important considerations that the community must have time and the ability to discuss.

There is no longer a reason to keep secret such discussions under the cover of executive session because personnel may be affected. During my tenure on last year’s Board, personnel have been made aware of the possibility of a change in management structure. Thus, there’s nothing to hide from them, especially now after the recent public communications from the Board.

Accordingly, if the Board continues to keep its deliberations regarding changing the management structure behind closed doors, the Board is only hiding its actions from us, the homeowners.

In sum, before switching management structure, the Board, and we the homeowners, must consider:
1) Why change?
2) What does the SRMA gain by changing?
3) What does the SRMA lose by changing?
4) And, if the SRMA changes, what is the recourse if we don’t like the change?

Aden Allen
Steiner Ranch