Coop financials still a mystery

In our cooperative survey conducted this fall, 20% of respondents were very or somewhat satisfied with the financial health of the coop, while 58% were very or somewhat dissatisfied. Considering that for many of us this is our largest financial investment, that number could stand to be improved.

What’s the source of that dissatisfaction? We didn’t ask that question, but I suspect it can be summed up in one word: mystery.

  • Our audited annual report is late again — even later than last year. That means that shareholders cannot adequately review the coop’s financials before voting.
  • The budget for the current fiscal year is late again — even later than last year. We’re now five months into the fiscal year that began on July 1, and the board is operating without a budget.
  • Last year’s budget was filled with inflated income meant to hide a looming deficit that board members did not want to have to address before the election. (Board members Lee Berman and Peter Herb wrote last year about that budget was passed by the board with only a cursory review.) Only after the election did the board acknowledge the deficit and raise our monthly maintenance.
  • The coop has no capital budget or reserve fund for large-scale repairs, meaning we could face an unexpected assessment the next time our aging infrastructure cracks.

This mystery would be easily dispelled if the board were to adopt a few new practices like pledging to release audited financials at least 30 days before our annual meeting and budgets at the start of the fiscal year. Using the directors’ occasional newsletter to report more substantive ongoing financial information would also help, as would a mid-year Q&A for shareholders.