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Springs at Cheakamus residents face major increase in strata fees

Strata Corporation recommends 22.5 per cent fee increase after $17,166.14 omitted from budget

It's a surprise Erin Day could have done without.

The Springs resident in the Chaeakamus neighbourhood has recently learned that his strata is facing a 22.5 per cent increase after some major costs were omitted from last year's budget.

"My first reaction was, holy cow, that's a fairly large addition to my monthly bills," he said. "And then actually looking into it, I found it hard to believe that someone, somewhere didn't really know, especially considering the place... had been operating through the Olympics for probably a little over a year."

Records attached to the agenda for the Springs Strata Corporation's annual general meeting show that residents will have to pay an additional $17,166.14 in strata fees after some costs turned out far higher than anticipated and others never appeared on a budget before.

For Day, who owns one of the complex's larger units, that means an increase of $720 a year or $60 a month in strata fees.

The reason for the rise in strata fees is that neither the costs associated with the District Energy System or natural gas were factored into the 2010-2011 budget, an omission that actually left the Strata Corporation with a surplus of $50.35. Hydro expenses were also "significantly under-budgeted," according to the agenda.

A statement of income attached to the agenda shows that hydro was initially budgeted at $3,300 for November 1, 2010 through to September 30, 2011. It actually cost $9,727.18 for that period, a difference of $6,427.18.

The cost of natural gas, meanwhile, was never calculated into the 2010-2011 budget and ended up costing the strata corporation $5,607.10. Ditto the District Energy System, a special heating system that extracts heat from treated sewage effluent through a closed-loop system in order to provide residents with space heating and domestic hot water heating. Unbudgeted in 2010-2011, it ended up costing $1,748.25.

Repairs and maintenance also ended up making a big hole in the strata's budget. Projected to cost $2,750, they ended up costing $6,133.61.

Scott Schober, managing partner with Whistler Resort Management Ltd., which provides strata management services at the Springs at Cheakamus, said the Whistler Development Corporation, the developer that built Cheakamus Crossing, did not initially provide the Strata with line items for expenses such as the DES or natural gas.

He stressed, however, that the budget presented was merely a draft, and that when the annual general meeting takes place, residents will be able to make amendments and vote on the budget, so the draft is by no means the final word.

"When we get to the AGM... they have the right to make a motion to make changes to that budget as they see fit," Schober said. "They just have to get someone to second the motion, so it's not done yet. By the time we come out of that meeting, the owners should have a budget that they're happy with."

Asked why neither DES nor natural gas was included in the 2010-2011 budget, he did not have an answer, except to say that it was a "new line item." He added that in any strata's first year, as 2010-2011 was for Springs at Cheakamus, people often have to guess how much expenses are going to cost.