By Dave Cornell, BSA Architect
This is a continuing series of articles on various aspects of the properties we own, lease, care for, and look to make better. As we all know, the program of Scouting is valuable to the growth of youth in this country and around the world. Where we deliver that program needs to convey that value and the coming articles are intended to assist us all in making that conveyance to our current users, as well as all of ur future users and their families.
In various discussions recently with people at the National Service Center, with folks out with councils, and even with people not associated with the organization, the subject of property has come up more times than not. Given the situation the organization finds itself in and is striving to resolve sooner than later, this subject can become emotional for some, irrational for others, and inspiring and out-of-box thinking for several. This is encouraging in some cases and discouraging in others depending on how one approaches the discussion.
At the base level though, we all have to be aware of some very elementary factors that influence the discussion towards more positive resolution versus an off-the-cuff, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants take on the matter.
Notably, what’s the situation with the legal survey of a given piece of dirt? Is your property platted under a single survey in its entirety, or is it made up of numerous plats as the land was acquired by the council over several years and has never been surveyed as one piece of property? This is more common than many would think in our organization. And this can cause serious issues to remedy in a short order!
Of note in the case of “numerous plats” is that each plat may have a governing document along with it and how that is to be controlled should any changes be considered. There may be a reversion clause whereby the property would revert back to the owner who ‘gave’ the property in the first place, should they still be alive or if anyone in that family is still around to receive the property back. There may be a clause that before any modification can be considered the proposed plan has to be brought to the former owner for consideration or if denied, the plat would not be considered as part of your assets moving forward. Stranger things have and do occur! The entity that provided the property in the first place may not want the property encompassed into a larger plat and desire to retain ownership given the changes coming down the path. This is why all councils have been advised to replat their properties so as to go through all of the legal discovery and process by which a clear, single plat of the land can be generated and clear title/deed be filed with the appropriate governing body. This is a process that could take months to years to complete.
All of this to say as our motto goes, Be Prepared! As council administrations change on a fairly frequent basis, it behooves the new folks, and even the outgoing crew, to put things in order so all of the issues surrounding the council’s properties are known and have been addressed in getting all of the ‘i’s’ dotted and ’t’s’ crossed. Knowing the parameters of your properties performance through the years is helpful as well for the new crew so they have accurate measure of what to expect out of the property they’ve taken responsibility for. This is encouraged for all council administrations to know whether they are going through a change or not! What’s the ‘cost-per-day’ of each of the properties you own or lease? Do you know the ‘cost-per-camper-day’ metric in your operation? This is a business and those are two metrics that help gauge how successful your business truly is.
Many times the expression has been made that, “my camp makes money” and in some cases, end of discussion. Okay, so your camp “makes money.” Over what period of time? The summer camp sessions? The summer camp season? What about all year? Is depreciation included in your numbers? Are all of the expenses associated with the operation of the facility included for the year? Even percentages of the council folks who provide some administrative duties, their compensation should be included in the time devoted to the property. It’s those issues where you think you’re making money and when all is attributed that should be, you’re actually not. We typically do not charge enough for our operation to cover the expenses incurred. Again, this is a business and we need to be profitable. Non-profit does not mean no profit.
We need to get in the mind-set of retaining some capital so we can raise our game in the camping industry and move ourselves back up the ladder to be a bigger player in this arena. Know the true costs of your properties. Know your obligations concerning those properties. Know the factors that come into play should the decision be made to move your property, if you can move your property.
See you next issue!
The Outdoor Programs / Properties Team is ready to assist and guide in any respect to making the program of Scouting the best youth program! Reach out to any member of the team and we’ll endeavor to provide quality answers to any issue you may have and/or facing. We look forward to working together to make the program the best ever!