Board member: APV to raise dues to combat $1M budget shortfall

Article Courtesy of The Ledger

By Mike Ferguson

Published September 12, 2018

POINCIANA – Homeowners’ association fees in Poinciana could be increasing for a second straight year – this time to address a $1 million budget shortfall, according to one master board member.

The proposed increase would take HOA dues at the Association of Poinciana Villages from $276 per household to $315. That’s an increase of 14 percent and a two-year increase of 20 percent. Dues sat at $252 in 2017.

“They’ve got a million-dollar shortfall, because they don’t know how to run the place,” said Victor Destremps, who represents Village Five on the master board. “Nobody on the board knew anything about (the shortfall). We’ve got a management group that doesn’t know how to manage.”

FirstService Residential manages the HOA of about 27,000 homes spanning parts of Polk and Osceola counties. The HOA is divided into nine villages with each governed by a five-member board. One member from each village serves on the APV master board.

“This place runs a lot of debt,” Destremps said. “They put in a lifestyle department for things like recreation that started very small. It has increased significantly.”

In an interview with The Ledger last year, a representative for FirstService Residential said the $24 increase from $252 to $276 was a result of fees for fighting legal battles with residents who filed lawsuits. Destremps, Peter Jolly and Annette Brown-Best are currently fighting a case that alleges APV and developer AV Homes have violated the 1985 agreement that was supposed to turn over control of the association to the residents and failed to update the HOA’s deed restrictions, which is a measure required by Florida’s Marketable Record Title Act.

“They’ll blame it on the lawsuits, I’m sure,” Destremps said. “There’s a lot of cases that legal has to handle. We could get a full-time attorney for $80,000 to $100,000 a year.”

Destremps said he and Village One representative Elizabeth Cousins are the only master board members not working on behalf of the HOA or developer. For unplatted lots, the developer is allowed to cast large block votes based on the number of homes that could be built.

In June 2017, resident Martin Negron won an arbitration case against APV that ruled the HOA and developer were “capricious” in the way they counted votes, forcing the HOA to nullify results from the February 2017 election and hold another election that August. AV Homes then sued APV in circuit court for the contractual right to cast large block votes and proceeded to cast nearly 10,000.

“The ongoing, frivolous litigation filed by Mr. Negron has resulted in an unnecessary use of the Association’s resources and has cost the community more than $100,000,” APV said in a provided statement this week. “Additionally, due to the lawsuit filed by Mr. Negron, we were forced to spend thousands of dollars to hold a second election in 2017 — an election that the court now says was completely unnecessary. We are happy the courts continue to rule in our favor, but we are certainly ready to move on from these futile antics.”

The reference in the statement was to a recent Appellate Court ruling against Negron’s motion to intervene in the Circuit Case since he was not notified that it would circumvent the Department of Business and Professional Regulation arbitration ruling. His appeal was made after his motion was rejected by the 10th Judicial Circuit.

“This means that, despite Mr. Martin Negron’s claims, APV correctly counted AV Homes’ votes based on the number of homes they can build on their undeveloped tracts of land,” APV said in the same statement. “That number is set by Osceola and Polk County land development records, not by APV. The Association of Poinciana Villages will continue to follow this directive in future elections unless told otherwise by the courts.”

Destremps and Jolly had legal issues with APV prior to the current lawsuit. In 2015, an injunction was filed that required the two men to repay $1.6 million taken from the HOA and placed into accounts that only they had access to. Most of the money was recovered.

While some budget line items such as lifestyle have seen increases, Destremps said others such as Public Works are depleted. Destremps said APV has 38 Public Works employees and of those, 10 are in management positions. During the spring, APV management told the Polk County Sheriff’s Office that its two vehicles for making debris hauls were out of commission after authorities inquired about Hurricane Irma debris build-up at a Public Works facility.

“They don’t have enough money to replace equipment,” Destremps said. “There’s something not right in Denmark. We need to get rid of this management company and let these homeowners run the place.”

David Heare, the assistant Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troup 844, said his group of 15 children and teens was just informed that they would have to pay $500 per month to use the Mary Jane Arrington Gym for meetings. The organization has been meeting at the location for 90 minutes per week, free of charge for the last year.

“We heard this decision was made by the master board in June,” Heare said. “Everyone has told me that the master board did not take that vote. I just thought it was a little weird. We’re a nonprofit organization. There’s no way we could afford that.”

Destremps said the board did approve a fee schedule, but didn’t think the Boy Scouts were part of that. As of 5 p.m. Friday, APV did not respond to inquiries about the fee increase or the Boy Scouts.

“There needs to be more transparency,” he said. “Anything we do in Village Five is always open. There has to be more of that on the master board.”

Destremps said the proposed budget for next year sits at about $10 million. In addition to hikes in lifestyle and inadequate staffing in public works, Destremps added that reserves continue to shrink, going from about $2 million on Jan. 1 to $1.2 million currently.

As far as the Boy Scouts go, Heare, a Poinciana resident himself, said all the children in the troop are local. The troop serves children from ages 11 to 16.

“We usually use one little meeting room, which is always empty,” Heare said. “I just love helping the kids and watching them grow. This is a slap in the face and I think it has something to do with the $1 million shortfall. We’re just trying to do some good in the neighborhood.”

Heare said the organization was told that there were grant opportunities in the amount of $1,500, but he noted that would only pay for three months of use at the facility. The organization, according to Heare, found out about it last week, but he said APV claims to have notified the troop months ago.

“They say they sent an email months ago that they can’t produce,” he said. “All the boys live right here. They’re wanting to charge Boy Scouts to use a facility that their parents fund anyway.”