September 18, 2009

A Quick Guide to Budget Ratification

The board of the Issaquah Highlands Community Association recently had a landscaping problem on its hands. Undeveloped common areas that were too steep for people to reach safely or cheaply were becoming overgrown and unsightly. The board responded by renting herds of goats to munch on the unwanted vegetation for several weeks. The board’s creativity and frugality will probably be appreciated as the association considers its next budget. As community associations enter another budget season, they should make sure that they are following the correct procedures.

The Washington laws that govern condominium and homeowners associations require boards to provide owners with summaries of proposed budgets and schedule owners’ meetings between 14 and 60 days later to consider ratification of proposed budgets. Unless owners holding a majority of the voting power or any larger percentage specified in the declaration reject the proposed budget at the meeting, the proposed budget is ratified (whether or not a quorum is present at the meeting) and takes effect. If the proposed budget is vetoed or the required notice is not given, the last budget ratified by the owners continues until another budget is ratified. An association’s governing documents may impose additional requirements pertaining to budgets as well.

The budget ratification meeting is the board’s best opportunity to proactively address owners’ concerns about the size of their assessments and the association’s spending priorities. For example, if the budget increases reserve account contributions, the board should be prepared to explain how this added expense will contribute to the common good. Taking the time to reveal the reasons behind the numbers at the budget ratification meeting will put many owners at ease and can prevent larger disputes later.