Tom Soter in Board Operations on October 6, 2015
The first challenge is common and practical: it's difficult to get a quorum of shareholders together for the annuals — so doing it twice is double the trouble. The second challenge concerns how much abuse a board can handle: one manager — who requested anonymity — says the meetings are "something to dread. With all the complaints and raw emotion floating around there, you're lucky if you get out in one piece." Indeed, one special meeting attended by attorney Geoffrey Mazel, a partner in Hankin & Mazel, was brutal. The building had been underfunded for years and had to raise the maintenance by 13 percent. The meeting was meant to explain that. "The board was subject to intense shareholder scrutiny," recalls the attorney, "but they had to do it."
That said, why on earth would anyone want to schedule building-wide gatherings twice a year? Are they nuts — or just gluttons for punishment?
Neither. The extra meetings are primarily scheduled for one or two reasons: to announce and explain new projects, and/or to release and report on the annual budget.
Using meetings to announce new projects. Often billed as "town hall meetings," these gatherings are usually held when the need to disseminate information arises. Lorry Bogarsky, board president of a 68-unit cooperative in Hewlett in Nassau County, notes that having the sessions has been
particularly helpful because the board often has a lot on its plate that needs explaining. "We've made a lot of improvements, some of them necessary and some of them 'curb-appeal' items."
"If ever we're going to have a big project, like a window installation, we have a special meeting," says Steven Greenbaum, director of management at Mark Greenberg Real Estate. "You introduce all the people involved [in the job]: the board, the engineer, the window company, the foreman, the owner of the window company, the project manager, the person who's going to be on site, and the managing agent. You talk about the contract, how much it's going to cost, whether it's being done with the reserve fund or whether it's being done through assessments. Everybody gets to understand why and how you're doing it, and that takes all the fear of the unknown away."
These gatherings can be held formally, in a large space on the property (such as a lobby) or in a rented hall. (One building, the Le Havre, a 1,024-unit cooperative in Queens, stages its extra meeting in the summer by the co-op's swimming pool, which gives firebrands and hotheads an opportunity to cool off — quite literally — if the discussion gets heated.)
Using meetings to discuss money matters. Many call for extra meetings to discuss finances, from maintenance increases to special assessments. A number of properties have regularly scheduled meetings specifically to discuss the budget. These are usually held in November when the budget has just been completed.
"Last year," Glasser recalls, "we did raise the maintenance, and some people wanted to get a little more specific about items that were in the budget. That included telling them that we had been over budget for the prior year, because of the heating situation, how cold it was — which affected fuel prices — and how we needed to restore some of what we had taken out of the reserve funds."
Illustration by Jeff Moores
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