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Bank on It! Board Members’ Guide to Money Management

Go down any major shopping street and chances are you’ll see five or six bank branches within two or three blocks—big banks like Chase and Citibank, smaller community banks, foreign-owned banks, you name it. Add to that investment banks, online bank accounts, government bonds and other financial instruments, and it can be confusing to many—especially when you want to know where to put your association or condo association’s money. Administrators need to keep their operating funds both safe and accessible, and also take care of their reserve and operating funds.

Types of Accounts

In most cases, what types of accounts do community associations and HOAs have? We found a variety of answers. For example, Stephen Beer, CPA, a partner at the New York City-based accounting firm of Czarnowski & Beer, LLP, says that there are basically four types of accounts.

These include the basic operating checking account “that you pay your bills with,” reserve funds that can restricted for capital items or other items that the board deems necessary; an account to store extra money that is saved unexpectedly, which can later be moved into your operating fund or a money-making account; and an escrow account, often for security-deposit money that you’re holding for a few months for new residents. The “extra money” account, Beer says, often can be found in gas-heated buildings after mild winters, when the building spends less than it had budgeted for.

Richard Smolin, CPA, with the Brooklyn-based accounting firm Smolin & Altamura, CPAs, says that generally, associations have two or three basic accounts. The aforementioned operating accounts, he says, are typically checking accounts at an FDIC-insured institution. Buildings also have a savings account, “which can double as the reserve account for smaller buildings.” And larger buildings generally have separate, board-controlled reserve accounts.

“Size matters,” Smolin adds. “For a smaller building, two accounts should be sufficient. A larger building may have three, or even four.”

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