Thursday, April 18, 2013


If you attended the Public Hearing on the 2013-2014 FWMA and Tax District budgets tonight, you saw why I attend very few meetings here at Farmington Woods. The degree of cognitive dissonance in the room was so high I was looking for the thermostat to turn it down. Instead it got me heated up and I ended up spilling my frustration onto the crowd, which wasn’t overflowing, but sizeable.

After hearing our President’s rather lengthy introduction to the meeting tonight we were subjected to the usual mind-numbing review of the budget, department by department courtesy of our new GM. You know the story: This department’s forecasting a loss but hey, they pay rent to the district so it’s a net gain for us. Except when you realize that all the money paid from one department to another comes from one source: us.

One department success story involved the restaurant that is projecting a $22K profit this year versus last year’s $4K net gain. Of course what the power point presentation didn’t highlight is the fact that before unused restaurant minimums, which are assessed from all of us at $30 a month, were factored in there was a loss of $122K. That’s right, because 37% of us choose to forgo the pleasure of the restaurant those unused assessments mean the difference between losing $122K and making $22K. 

How would that scenario ever work in the real world? Really.

Other departments of note included the golf department with this year’s $129K deficit built into the budget (and $50K more to come in January if past history is any) with no mention that the golf department hasn’t had a profitable year in the last ten. There were charts and graphs of fees over the years and fees other condos were paying, but missing was the one that showed that losses for the operating expense of the course were entering their fifth year of plus $100K deficits.

When the comment portion of the meeting commenced people were allowed to ramble far beyond the two minute maximum announced beforehand. There were comments about the overall appearance of Farmington Woods and the fact that while, according to a resident realtor, home prices in Avon in general were rising, Farmington Woods condos were decreasing in value. High condo fees were cited as the reason.

Concerns were voiced about tree removal and other mundane issues but the most contentious topic of the night, the allotment of $5K in a budget of over $6M for a “playscape” and other recreational amenities for youngsters and a basketball court for all ages.

There were actually people who said that although they approved of the budget as a whole and were ready to vote in favor of it, they had changed their minds because of, and I repeat myself intentionally, the expenditure of a measly $5K in a budget of over $6M!

At one point during the budget presentation I had to escape. If there had been a room with paint drying in it, I would have preferred to be there watching it dry as opposed to being where I had been. I left the room and went into the bar area to get some popcorn and take a breather. I sat, ate my popcorn and started to see elephants, even though I hadn’t had a drop to drink besides water!

As I sat there, looking out over a mostly empty dining room and a filled to capacity bar, with golfers enjoying their drinks after a carefree day on the links, I couldn’t help but reflect on the folks upstairs and their concern about the damage that an expenditure of $5K would do to our community. Oh, the maintenance costs. And, oh the increased liability. And, oh the damage that outside kids could do if we constructed such a thing. The rationalizations were mind bending.

It was at that moment that I decided I couldn’t stand in that room full of people, a lot of whom were content to front the golf operation $129K to keep it operating, while making some of the most mean-spirited, selfish comments I have heard coming from supposed adults in my entire adult life.

So if you missed what happened next you missed the reason I write a blog rather than stand on a soap box lecturing. I guess it’s because when I see not one but two elephants in the room and others see nothing, the level of cognitive dissonance reaches critical mass and I can't take it any more.

The experience of witnessing grown human beings looking right through those two huge elephants and focusing only on a mouse, in this case a child, sitting quietly in the back of the room, got my Irish blood boiling.                        

To summarize: 

-subsidizing a group of fewer than 89 resident adults and their pastime with losses to exceed $129K this fiscal year, Check.

-Providing amenities for resident children, of which there are in excess of 80, at a cost of $5K, Not Prudent.

To be frank, not only do I now see two very large elephants taking up most of the room eating everything in sight, I smell a red herring in all of this. I smell discrimination. I smell selfishness. I smell the ghost of the miser himself, Mr. Scrooge. It’s not his season, but he’s happy to share his misery any chance he gets.

As one mom asked, why should I have to drive my child outside of this community to access recreational activities? Answer, according to the grinches is “take them elsewhere or move.” I wonder if we presented that same deal to the 80 of so resident golfers what their reaction would be?

I wonder if we told them we weren’t going to subsidize their losses for the fifth year in a row and that as a result they would have to play golf at one of the many area courses within five miles of Farmington Woods because we just couldn’t afford to support them any longer, what their reaction would be.

Might be a nice reality check.

By the way, those two elephants are still there. If you can’t see them, you could be in the throes of a severe case of cognitive dissonance.  Better get help.

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