Continuous Improvement saves big

Tellico Village Property Owners Association representatives, from left, Kevin Alfont, Mitzi Lane and Stephen Zell work on the phone system in the office conference room.

Tellico Village Property Owners Association employees for another year found ways to save money as part of the Continuous Improvement program.

For the second year in a row employees were able to save $160,000 in real money. A ceremonial check was presented during the POA board meeting in December.

The recent savings puts the program at a combined $1.05 million since 2012, according to Mitzi Lane, POA Continuous Improvement manager.

“It’s big because it came from the employees, and it’s something that they can be proud of,” Lane said of the recent savings. “They get rewarded for turning in ideas, coming up with projects that save money, and so I think it really boosts the morale when they know that they’ve come up with a project that saved money and everybody’s proud of them.

“So it works out to their benefit as far as keeping their morale up and they want to do better, try harder, they try to work smarter,” she added.

Lane called the savings a “great accomplishment.” Each year she challenges departments to find ways to save money, and typically it isn’t the same groups. This year the bulk of savings came from the information technology department and the accounting department. Last year it came from golf maintenance and public works, she said.

“That’s really cool too where you’ll see one year some managers really outshine, or departments really outshine others, and they really carry the company as a whole,” Lane said. “Nobody just doesn’t try, everybody’s looking and some years it really comes into fruition and others it doesn’t.”

The IT department was able to save close to $70,000 by going with a cloud-based system on telephones for all POA facilities, Lane said.

The change went live in November, Kevin Alfont, POA information technology manager, said.

“Originally we used a phone system that was a traditional BellSouth PBX long distance kind of service, and this system is a voice-over IP system through Verizon that eliminates any long-distance charges,” Alfont said. “So the bulk of the savings comes from the elimination of long-distance charges. So we can basically make long-distance calls for free.”

Lane said nearly $200,000 was saved with “process changes” on the administrative side with the handling of insurance.

“We moved away from a fixed-rate insurance quote and plan to one that has a lower initial premium whereby we the POA assume part of the risk of loss, and so on the fixed-rate program you kind of guarantee your loss for the year ceiling and you tend to pay more for that because you’ve got a limit,” Parker Owen, POA chief financial officer, said. “You’re willing to go with a lower premium and share some of that risk, we believe, and in fact it proved to be true that our loss experience was low enough that we ended up saving money.”

Owen said the POA has continued with the process again this year.

“We’re always looking for ways to save money and this was an idea, the health care piece of it, was an idea that I actually heard of at TSCPA, Tennessee Society of CPA’s meeting, and I took that concept and brought it back here and started exploring whether or not that would make sense for us and it turned out something close to that did make sense,” Owen said.

Hopes are to save $165,000 this year, Lane said.

“I think because we are working for the property owners who live here, it’s their association, and it’s our job as management and staff to do what’s best for the association as a whole, and that is to spend the money wisely and do what’s best for the entire Village,” Lane said.

One way to save money this year is going with a “utility paperless billing project,” which Lane believes will be a positive.

“I think our residents even are moving more toward paperless,” she said. “People are paying their bills online electronically, and this is exactly going down that road and is going to be a big savings.”