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Tips from a Treasurer

Read this article in the digital edition.


In 2005, I became treasurer of my co-op. I had been a lawyer in the field since 1968 and president of the board in 1985, and served for two terms at other times. You would think I was prepared for the job. How wrong you would be.

I started my term by meeting with the superintendent and the managing agent to review the bills and invoices each month and then reported to the board what I had found (very little). It took two years of this monthly practice to realize that it was not nearly enough. I had nothing in the way of history or experience to ask the right questions or to challenge an answer given by the super or the agent.

Thank heaven for the computer. During the first two years, I was keeping the monthly and annual statements and started to do a detailed analysis of expenses. For example, monthly oil usage seemed to be out of whack even with the monthly temperature changes. We found that we were being shortchanged on delivery.

We changed the way we operated; the super checked the oil gauge on the truck immediately before and after delivery. The problem was that some trucks can shortchange you by dropping off gallons first at some other location and start delivery of the oil with the gauge already reading the number of gallons delivered at the other location.

I started comparing the managing agent’s administrative costs each year in detail. Even though he does a certified audit, the accountant does not check every bill. Thus, when you receive your monthly managing agent’s bill it may or may not contain a charge for a particular service.

Take payroll processing, for instance. How it is handled depends on your management contract: some absorb the cost and others provide in the contract for an additional payroll processing fee.

But what if the management contract is silent on payroll processing and the management company does it in-house? The management company decides to bill you for it as part of the administrative costs, and even if it’s listed in your monthly statement, most treasurers without prior experience would not realize the expense is not appropriate because it was not put in the management contract as an allowable expense. It is small – perhaps only $75 per month – but it adds up.

In my case, I discovered it only after we decided to hire a new agent; during the negotiations of the management fee the new agent made me realize that the old management fee was not as little as I had thought. After I added up charges for the monthly “extras,” we were paying several thousand more than we had thought.

It has been seven years since I first took the job. In those seven years, a new super and a new managing agent helped me gain the experience to do a competent job.

After three years, I no longer wanted the aggravation of being a board member but realized the new treasurer would have to go through the learning curve I had just finished. Our bylaws do not require an officer other than the president to be a board member. I offered to continue as treasurer provided I did not remain on the board. My offer was accepted, and I continue to serve. I report to the board at each meeting and then get to go back to my apartment to watch the Mets.

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