For the past two consecutive years, the Mountain Park Ranch Homeowners Association Board has passed increases to the maximum permitted - $5 per month. There was no evidence of spending reductions, seemingly just a knee-jerk reaction of "let's raise dues because we can."

In both 2008 and 2009, the board passed dues increases at its July meeting and kept the increase under wraps for several months. Budget information presented at the October annual meetings showed the increase as "anticipated revenue" for the coming year, with extreme care not to call attention to the dues increase funding the "revenue increase." Homeowners didn't learn of the dues increase for the coming year 2010 until after the November 2009 board meeting on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving - notices arrived over the holiday weekend.

After their long delay in posting the July meeting minutes we see that board members McDaniel, Carruth and Brown voted "to approve keeping the annual assessments for year 2011 at $300 with no increase, and to approve the maximum assessment allowed (5 percent) for year 2011 as permitted in the governing documents of the association in the amount of $317.52."

That must mean they voted to increase the maximum assessment after voting not to increase it.

And $317.52? The 5 percent maximum is $15, not $17.52. Does the board or controller Liz Johnson or the Budget and Finance Committee even check these simple calculations? Does the board even read meeting minutes before rubber-stamping their approval?

Nor did the annual meeting materials include the 2011 budget reflecting the "per-household" assessment for 2011; evidently the board is saving that as a walk-in surprise.

To those who ask, "Rather than complain, why don't you volunteer to be part of the process and submit improvements?" I'm so glad you asked, because I've been there, done that.

After MPRHOA staffers sandbagged my request for financial information with delaying tactics and bogus laws, it was necessary to contact board members directly for figures I'm entitled to receive by Arizona state law, and submitted recommendations for reasonable spending reductions at the Nov. 27 board meeting. In all these months, they've never replied. The recommendations appeared for all MPRHOA members in the Dec. 26 edition of the Ahwatukee Foothills News and several MPR owners expressed support ("Mountain Park Ranch HOA: Let them eat cake").

At that same Nov. 27 meeting, I requested additional figures that are disguised in the current financial reports. The board hasn't so much as sent me a card.

In September 2009, I contacted executive director Jim Welch about serving on the Budget and Finance Committee. He told me the meeting days but "forgot" to mention the application form they require. At the October 2009 annual meeting, committee chair Patricia Bambridge acknowledged learning of my interest from Welch, and also "forgot" to mention the needed application. Only when I attended the November committee meeting with the expectation of participating did I learn of this needed application form.

That I completed it immediately and submitted it on the spot wasn't good enough - they "couldn't" act on it then and it was delayed until after the Christmas holiday. That the problem was caused by a combined failure of Welch and Bambridge to provide the needed form didn't matter, it was their error but the consequences fell to me. Nor was any apology offered by either Welch or Bambridge.

It wasn't until a Jan. 28, 2010 letter from the board telling me that "at the January 26 2010 board of directors meeting, the board reviewed and accepted the committee's recommendation to not approve your committee application" that I learned Bambridge and her committee blackballed my application. Just a slap in the face to a homeowner volunteer without even the courtesy of even a minimal explanation.

As former MPRHOA treasurer and organizer of the original B&F committee in 1999, I was well qualified and they knew it. The committee had vacancies because they accepted two other applicants (both former board members whose track records was evidence to the committee that they wouldn't identify spending reductions or ask pesky financial questions of MPRHOA staffers).

Don't be fooled when the MPRHOA board asks for volunteer committee members. What they really want are puppets who accept whatever they're told and do as they're directed by MPRHOA staffers (much like the board themselves). If you have any idea of making a difference with committee service, you'll be blackballed by the entrenched puppets, just as I was.

So Mountain Park Ranch owners, be prepared for your annual "surprise" from the board.

Sandra Miller has lived in Ahwatukee Foothills for 16 years and served as a director for the Mountain Park Ranch Homeowners Association during the developer-to-homeowner transfer. The TEA Party movement expanded her focus to "taxes" and other involuntary payments.


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