|**News and Events: View from the Top Nov. 05: Dues Increase|
|Thu, October 27, 2005 10:10 AM|
Below is the View from the Top reprinted from the November issue of The Mountaineer. This monthly section is a forum for the club's president, Ron Eng, to communicate with the general membership. |
This month, Ron has chosen to discuss the increase in club dues which took effect October 1. Since it's an important change, we felt it was worthwhile to publish the article here online.
View from the Top
Nov. 05 Mountaineer
By Ron Eng, president
The Mountaineers Board of Trustees has just approved a $12 dues increase. We are painfully aware that this is the largest dues increase in our clubs history eclipsing the previous record, a $7 increase in 1989. However, The Mountaineers continues to face a significant fiscal challenge and dues are a primary source of club revenue.
There are currently 11,556 Mountaineers. Our membership had peaked at 15,564 in 1999 and during the past six years, our membership has decreased by more than 25 percent. This decline in membership has had an obvious effect on club revenue. At the same time, club operating costs have continued to rise. For example, despite raising the deductible amount, the cost of The Mountaineers liability insurance policy has more than doubled (an increase of 126 percent) in six years. As a result of the combination of decreasing membership and increasing cost, the clubs insurance coverage cost has risen to $11.79 per member.
Furthermore, we have operated on deficits during the past six years totaling $544,000. However, it is important to note that the club has received a number of very generous contributions, bequests and grants that have helped to offset this deficit.
The continuing decline in membership is an alarming trend. Determining its root causes is a difficult task. We speculate that it may in fact be a reflection of the state of the national and local economy. In fact, it is significant to note that the membership of the Colorado Mountain Club, which is similar to The Mountaineers in many respects, has fallen from 10,000 to 7,000. This represents a comparable loss in an equivalent period of time. And whereas this statistic provides only small solace and by itself does not indicate a trend, our actual membership decline rate for the past year was 4.78 percent. In comparison, all too often during the previous five years, the decline rate had reached as much as 6 percent.
Facing the twin challenges of decreased revenues and increased expenses, the board of trustees has struggled to compose a sustainable operating budget for the club. Last year, the board passed an austere budget for the recently completed fiscal year. This budget included both significant expense reductions and a $6 dues increase, but it was still a deficit budget.
As I had noted in the October View from the Top, The Mountaineers Board of Trustees consists of 22 voting members. There are 16 trustees: nine at-large trustees and seven trustees elected by each branch (by an election process determined by each branch). There are six officers: president, president-elect, secretary who is clerk of the corporation, treasurer, vice president of recreational properties and vice president of publishing. The officers are elected by the 16 elected members of the board. Each of the 22 members of the board of yrustees must consider all the facts and then exercise due diligence to make decisions that best serve the interests of the club as a whole.
Please note that The Mountaineers does still have significant financial resources and reserves. As of Aug. 31, 2005, the club cash balance, including the branches, was $969,000. We have significant real estate holdings, including five lodges, three of which are on land owned by The Mountaineers. We own two clubhouse buildings, one on very valuable land in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle and the other in the Old Town district of Tacoma. With the exception of normal recurring payables, The Mountaineers has a debt load of zero.
The Mountaineers has always relied upon the dedication of the members. It is our members that make our club great. Once again, our club needs the help of our members; your help. On the eve of our centennial, we are asking you not only for your continued support but for your increased support.