Re: Dues and User Fees
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Tue, 3 Jul 2001 12:42:04 -0600 (MDT)
At RoseWind we are in the process of reworking our previously flat-rate 
assessment process, and also the process by which we set the annual 
operating budget. Currently our budget comes to about $800 a year x 24 
households. (No SNOW removal here in paradise.)

How it was:
Committees would work up wish lists, and then sometimes feel 
unappreciated when the community decided not to fund them. Things that we 
wanted "eventually" would get put off year after year, leaving their 
proponents disappointed. 

We have considerable diversity of financial resources, and not always 
what one might guess (for example, not always in correlation with house 
size). We sometimes cut the budget back to less than some were willing to 
pay, to not overburden others. 

What is emerging from our task force and discussion circles:

A budget may be easier to agree upon if we first (duh) set criteria for 
what a "good" budget will accomplish, and (duh again) agree on goals for 
the things that require money. Thus, if we agree that a good budget will 
include insurance that covers us for certain things, then that's a budget 
item, at whatever price we can best find. Or that we want to have enough 
in a legal-expense fund to deal with something like X, which cost us $x. 
In terms of goals, if we all want 20-foot-high trees ten years from now, 
that means certain projects now. 

We want to allow people to pay on a sliding scale, allowing not only 
under-average payments, but over-average payments. We seem to be moving 
towards the idea of coming up with a "good" draft budget, determining the 
average and an acceptable scale -- like maybe 80%-120%. With the goal of 
funding the draft budget, we think that each household could anonymously 
offer an amount in that range, total the slips of paper, and come out ok 
or close. Perhaps a 2nd or 3rd round of offers would make it come up to 
the desired total. (This may sound nuts, but we have successfully funded 
several other projects this way.) If still short, see if there are any 
anonymous donors who would help fund the shortfall. If still short, trim 
the budget, keeping in mind our criteria of goals and priorities. 

If this works, committees will have a more realistic sense of the whole 
group's priorities and desires BEFORE they work up proposals. And we 
won't be held back by a financial lowest common denominator. And those 
with less money won't feel like they are a problem to the group. 

On another topic, sort of, the matter of whether "users" pay more than 
others. We have a suggested donation for private use of the common house, 
and for certain garden expenses relevant to privately-farmed plots in the 
community garden. But generally we have the idea that if a project serves 
an identified community value--- accessibility, support for 
children/elders, less environmental impact, growing organic food-- that 
it should be funded by the community. We're not perfect though: there is 
grumbling about who should pay for the piano tuning, and how often, on 
the lovely piano that was gifted to our common house.

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature)

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