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Subject: Posting invoices on the web site for property owners to view
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TeresaR4
(Arizona)

Posts:25


05/02/2019 1:57 AM  
The Board is considering posting the invoices on the web site for property owners to view. Currently, only BODs can review and approve invoices on the web. The web approved invoices are not brought to the meetings. The invoices are already there, it's a matter of giving the membership permissions to view them.

The BOD does provide summary costs quarterly on the web and mail annual summary costs at yr end along with the budget.

We are aware any member can request info and copies and we must provide such. No issues in that area.

Any experienced pros or cons to emplimenting this. Some BODs favor this, others not. Some feel it isn't needed, creates unnecessary questions. I would suggest current yr invoices only.

Your thoughts??

SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3300


05/02/2019 4:43 AM  
We simply put scanned copies of all our docs, invoices, anything on our Google Drive. There is no posting, no removing, no web guy to pay, its just like a hard drive but read only. No one can make changes.

Total transparency makes everyone happy.
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1418


05/02/2019 4:59 AM  
Posted By SteveM9 on 05/02/2019 4:43 AM
We simply put scanned copies of all our docs, invoices, anything on our Google Drive. There is no posting, no removing, no web guy to pay, its just like a hard drive but read only. No one can make changes.

Total transparency makes everyone happy.




This is a really good idea.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3583


05/02/2019 5:40 AM  
Nice idea. Wouldn't work for us.

We're self-managed. A number of our vendors only accept credit card payment. We use personal credit cards.

All transactions and payment approvals are fully transparent to our Exec Team of 5 Board members and 3 non-Board Officers.

If our records showed that Director A is getting $ and Officer B is getting $$, we'd be challenged repeatedly on why they're getting paid. Seeing one of us on the Vendor List would act like a magnet. Don't need to be answering the same questions over and over again.

Security comes in the fact that we use one CPA firm to do our bookkeeping, and another CPA firm audits our books. We just published our most recent audit to the community, with the explanation that we got a clean opinion letter from the auditor.

Also, our Annual Budget includes a category called Discretionary Expenditures for around 1% of budgeted income. That $ is spent at the discretion of the Board. Don't want to get challenged on every little thing the Board decides to spend that $ on, especially since every homeowner would be paying around 5% more each month if we weren't self-managed.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3300


05/02/2019 5:49 AM  
Posted By NpS on 05/02/2019 5:40 AM
Nice idea. Wouldn't work for us.

We're self-managed. A number of our vendors only accept credit card payment. We use personal credit cards.

All transactions and payment approvals are fully transparent to our Exec Team of 5 Board members and 3 non-Board Officers.

If our records showed that Director A is getting $ and Officer B is getting $$, we'd be challenged repeatedly on why they're getting paid. Seeing one of us on the Vendor List would act like a magnet. Don't need to be answering the same questions over and over again.


Your simply delaying the day the poop hits the fan from lack of transparency.

What you should be doing is listing the expense/receipt from the credit card expense and a copy or screenshot of the check being written or cashed for each receipt. We do one check for each receipt to keep accounting simple to trace back. We write checks online and they get mailed to the person for free.



Security comes in the fact that we use one CPA firm to do our bookkeeping, and another CPA firm audits our books. We just published our most recent audit to the community, with the explanation that we got a clean opinion letter from the auditor.


Clean bill of health letter means nothing if there is no explanation of the expenses and re-payment to officers.


Also, our Annual Budget includes a category called Discretionary Expenditures for around 1% of budgeted income. That $ is spent at the discretion of the Board. Don't want to get challenged on every little thing the Board decides to spend that $ on, especially since every homeowner would be paying around 5% more each month if we weren't self-managed.


There should be no discretionary fund.
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3300


05/02/2019 5:52 AM  


We're self-managed. A number of our vendors only accept credit card payment. We use personal credit cards.


As a self managed HOA its super simple for you to get a debit card from your HOA checking account. Some banks print them on the spot. This would be a much, much cleaner way to do things.

Your financial hygiene is a mess.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:2622


05/02/2019 7:37 AM  
If there hasn’t been an issue with residents getting access to the invoices, I don’t think you need to create extra work for yourself by posting on your website. If it’s a website that the public can also access, I don’t think your vendors would appreciate their pricing information being out there for the world (especially competitors) to see. NpS also brought up some good points.

A compromise might be to scan them into your computer (or your property manager’s computer) and organize them in such a way that you can send PDF files to homeowners upon request (e.g. March 2019 maintenance invoices). Homeowners would still continue to request these in writing and the PDF files could eliminate printing and postage costs.
BarbaraT1
(Texas)

Posts:202


05/02/2019 8:31 AM  
Is this something that members are asking for?

There are always going to be homeowners who question every expense, want you to get ten bids for a $100 repair, insist that nothing could possibly cost as much as it does, tell you that they know a guy who would have done it for half, etc.

So as long as you're prepared to address those comments, I guess it wouldn't hurt.
TeresaR4
(Arizona)

Posts:25


05/02/2019 9:12 AM  
We don't upload a copy of the invoices to the web. The invoices are part of a Quick Books system.The hard copy is retained per state retention laws.

The reason the info is entered on the web, is for BOD to review and approve for payment, no waiting for a meeting. We just want to open the view to the members. The public does not have access to our web site.

A typical formatted entry would contain the following info...Busy Bee $200 Print ballots....or John Doe $32 for reimburse for mileage....or credit card $40 for misc maintenance supplies,$200 for cement--Total credit card $240. The contractors are Lump Sum for their services. Example...Joe Blow Grading $9000 for winter grade- per quote, with in budget... The info is formated in boxed fields. All postings beforehand are processed by the bookkeeper, reconciled with the quote, a note made if it is with in budget. If over budget, a note made as to how much and why. Directors can always make note to bring to the meeting for further review.

So it's no more effort, just more transparent. It's adds detail to the lump sum costs the members are provided at year end and qtrly. Occasionally, members ask, no challenge.

Just wondered if any HOA provided this and if there were any pro or cons.
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3300


05/02/2019 5:42 PM  

Also, our Annual Budget includes a category called Discretionary Expenditures for around 1% of budgeted income. That $ is spent at the discretion of the Board. Don't want to get challenged on every little thing the Board decides to spend that $ on, especially since every homeowner would be paying around 5% more each month if we weren't self-managed.




$3 million dollar budget at 1% = $30,000. Hookers and cocaine for everyone on the board, no questions asked.....

LOL
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3300


05/02/2019 7:24 PM  
I don’t think your vendors would appreciate their pricing information being out there for the world (especially competitors) to see.


In town's I've lived in, quotes and invoices are public record and copies of them are available for everyone to see. Not sure why a HOA would be more secretive than a professionally run town, with paid professionals.......for no reason.
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3300


05/02/2019 7:29 PM  
We provide all the paperwork on google drive.

If someone asks for paperwork, point them to the google drive, no need to look something up and send it to them.
If someone asks for records, point them to the google drive, they can find it themselves.
If someone wants to examine records, point them to the google drive. Find it yourself.

The point of transparency and the google drive is to not do any additional work for HOA volunteers, not have people wanting to examine records, photo copying, etc. Not spending time one researching things for people.

If someone wants to look something up, they can do it themselves, on their own time. All records are open for examination.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3583


05/07/2019 2:25 AM  
Posted By BarbaraT1 on 05/02/2019 8:31 AM
Is this something that members are asking for?

There are always going to be homeowners who question every expense, want you to get ten bids for a $100 repair, insist that nothing could possibly cost as much as it does, tell you that they know a guy who would have done it for half, etc.



I tend to agree with Barbara and Sheila who questions whether this is an issue for your community.

There is IMO a bigger issue of concern. Board members. In my experience, there is always a Board member or two who are passive participants. They get uncomfortable with the thought that they might get challenged, so they always take the safe route. If we published invoices, those passive Board members would probably lean toward the cheapest option instead of the best long term value for the community. I already see it now, without publishing invoices to the community. With publication, I think the issue only gets worse.

I can only speak for my own community.

- We do an annual survey. One of the questions we ask is for our homeowners to rate us on how well we manage our HOA finances. On that question, more than 90% of our owners rate us better than average. No reason IMO to muck things up if homeowners are "generally" comfortable.

- We're self managed. With 10% of our households represented on the management team, our owners "should" be able to feel confident that their interests are being cared for. If they don't, they can raise the issue at any time. We don't get complaints about how much we spend; we do get complaints about the quality of service from our vendors. I'd like to keep everyone focused on improving quality rather than price. (In our annual survey, around 80% of our owners rate our vendors as better than average. Not bad, but still room for improvement.)




Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3583


05/07/2019 2:29 AM  
Posted By SteveM9 on 05/02/2019 7:29 PM
If someone wants to look something up, they can do it themselves, on their own time. All records are open for examination.



I like this approach better than publication.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3583


05/07/2019 2:33 AM  
Posted By SteveM9 on 05/02/2019 7:24 PM
I don’t think your vendors would appreciate their pricing information being out there for the world (especially competitors) to see.


In town's I've lived in, quotes and invoices are public record and copies of them are available for everyone to see. Not sure why a HOA would be more secretive than a professionally run town, with paid professionals.......for no reason.



HOAs are non-profit corporations, not government entities. Different rights and responsibilities. Different skills. Uncompensated volunteers. Many differences that all affect how an HOA is run.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3583


05/07/2019 2:43 AM  
Posted By SteveM9 on 05/02/2019 5:49 AM
What you should be doing is listing the expense/receipt from the credit card expense and a copy or screenshot of the check being written or cashed for each receipt. We do one check for each receipt to keep accounting simple to trace back. We write checks online and they get mailed to the person for free.




That's the way you do it. If it works for you, great. For us, every charge is seen and subject to challenge by 10% of our membership, we have a CPA firm do our books (with all the appropriate account allocations of the various expenses including officer expenses), and we have another CPA form audit our books. Works for us.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3583


05/07/2019 2:50 AM  
Posted By SteveM9 on 05/02/2019 5:49 AM

Also, our Annual Budget includes a category called Discretionary Expenditures for around 1% of budgeted income. That $ is spent at the discretion of the Board. Don't want to get challenged on every little thing the Board decides to spend that $ on, especially since every homeowner would be paying around 5% more each month if we weren't self-managed.


There should be no discretionary fund.




Here's a link to a thread from 4 years ago about buying a plaque for a Board member who was stepping down after more than a decade of service: http://www.hoatalk.com/Forum/tabid/55/forumid/1/tpage/2/view/Topic/postid/187008/Default.aspx

Ultimately, we bought the plaque with discretionary funds - The plaque (which said it was from the HOA) was presented at the Annual Meeting in front of the membership who bothered to attend. We started and regularly add to a library of HOA related publications with those funds. We pay for the tent rental for our Annual block party with those funds. Etc.

As you can see in the old thread, there are mixed opinions on the topic of discretionary spending. Yet, IMO opinion, the idea that homeowners are looking over the Board's shoulder at every nickel spent in not conducive to making the large changes we need to make from time to time.

This past year, because we thought that homeowner ignorance is a serious problem, we spent half of our discretionary funds on a full day of training for any homeowner who was interested. If the owners who didn't participate don't approve, then they should take a turn driving the bus. But if they're going to just sit on the sidelines and gripe, well, then I refer you to the Man in the Arena thread for my thoughts on that.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3300


05/07/2019 4:37 PM  

HOAs are non-profit corporations, not government entities. Different rights and responsibilities. Different skills. Uncompensated volunteers. Many differences that all affect how an HOA is run.




Correct.... they are not government entities, but they are governed by local, state, federal laws. True again, many rights and responsibilities are different but many are the same. We are only talking about transparency here, so try to keep focused on the topic. True, different skills, but if you cant use a scanner, even a person with the least amount of skills can take a photo of a document with a smartphone and send it to the google drive.

Your state (PA) has its own laws concerning HOA/condos and providing records to homeowners to view.
Pennsylvania Law:
3316. Association records
All financial and other records shall be made reasonably available for examination by any unit owner and his authorized agents.

It takes a lot of skill to hide what your doing in an HOA.
It takes almost no skill to be transparent about what your doing.

MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:371


05/07/2019 5:54 PM  
Okay so I will admit that I did not read every post this time. I normally do before commenting but it was way TLTR for us old folks that don't know the term it is To Long To Read.

If they want to see every invoice run for the board and get elected. You have elections to pick the people that you trust enough to do this job. Everyone says they want to see everything and then they don't read the information. I had board member that never read the board packets. See the Congress for examples of this happening as we speak. I would not jump through hoops to try and make everyone happy. Guess what it won't make them happy. I promise.
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3300


05/07/2019 6:30 PM  
We dont try to make people happy. Simply try to be transparent.

Its actually less work to be transparent. People asking questions about this or that. People wanting to see this document or that. We simply tell them to go to the google drive and research it themselves. No work is required by the volunteer board members.

Many times a homeowner, who has no desire to be a board member, is helpful and says next time you do this, I know a cheaper way, or a better vendor, etc, etc. And with people like that helping, it helps everyone by being more efficient. You dont need to run for office to simply help the HOA with something specific your more knowledgeable about than anyone else.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3583


05/07/2019 6:35 PM  
Posted By MarkM19 on 05/07/2019 5:54 PM
Okay so I will admit that I did not read every post this time. I normally do before commenting but it was way TLTR for us old folks that don't know the term it is To Long To Read.

If they want to see every invoice run for the board and get elected. You have elections to pick the people that you trust enough to do this job. Everyone says they want to see everything and then they don't read the information. I had board member that never read the board packets. See the Congress for examples of this happening as we speak. I would not jump through hoops to try and make everyone happy. Guess what it won't make them happy. I promise.



Sound advice Mark.

Posted By SteveM9 on 05/07/2019 4:37 PM
Your state (PA) has its own laws concerning HOA/condos and providing records to homeowners to view.
Pennsylvania Law:
3316. Association records
All financial and other records shall be made reasonably available for examination by any unit owner and his authorized agents.



We follow PA law fully. We meet and go beyond the standard of "Reasonably available for examination." If any owner wants to inspect the books, we provide all non-confidential information requested.

Posted By MarkM19 on 05/07/2019 5:54 PM
It takes a lot of skill to hide what your doing in an HOA.
It takes almost no skill to be transparent about what your doing.



I get your point. You seem to be missing mine. A few ancient phrases still have merit.
"Penny wise and dollar foolish."
"Not seeing the forest for the trees."
It would be great if we had more owners who could look past the nickel-dime stuff, and pay attention to major issues that affect our community financially. Like Mark says, some people will never be happy no matter what you do.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3583


05/07/2019 6:59 PM  
Posted By SteveM9 on 05/07/2019 6:30 PM
We dont try to make people happy. Simply try to be transparent.

Its actually less work to be transparent. People asking questions about this or that. People wanting to see this document or that. We simply tell them to go to the google drive and research it themselves. No work is required by the volunteer board members.

Many times a homeowner, who has no desire to be a board member, is helpful and says next time you do this, I know a cheaper way, or a better vendor, etc, etc. And with people like that helping, it helps everyone by being more efficient. You dont need to run for office to simply help the HOA with something specific your more knowledgeable about than anyone else.



You are very lucky to have homeowners like that. If that system works for you, great.

Here's how our system works. We put all major contracts out to bid. Major contracts are for 3 year terms, because we think it's inefficient to change vendors annually. Every 3 years, we refine our RFQ process based on what we've learned since the last contract was signed. RFQs go to around a dozen potential vendors. We interview up to 6 vendors in person if their quotes are within our acceptable range. We use our contract, never a vendor's contract. We invite homeowners to recommend vendors. We let our owners know when we are starting the bid process. We invite owners to comment on changes they would like to see in the next 3-year contract. If anyone has specific expertise, we invite them to sit in on the evaluation sessions.

If that's not good enough for our owners, then dive in and become part of the process.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
TamaraG5
(Florida)

Posts:2


05/07/2019 7:08 PM  
Posted By SteveM9 on 05/02/2019 5:42 PM

Also, our Annual Budget includes a category called Discretionary Expenditures for around 1% of budgeted income. That $ is spent at the discretion of the Board. Don't want to get challenged on every little thing the Board decides to spend that $ on, especially since every homeowner would be paying around 5% more each month if we weren't self-managed.




$3 million dollar budget at 1% = $30,000. Hookers and cocaine for everyone on the board, no questions asked.....

LOL




Spot on. It's one thing to use property management software to allow your Board to approve invoices, it's quite another to involve the whole community in transparency to the point of going through customs with all your toiletries in plain view. Your vendors would be extremely overexposed with bids side by side & someone mentioned pound foolish & penny short; absolutely. All records can be requested, but TMI will drive a board to drink.
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:371


05/07/2019 7:21 PM  
NpS,
All of the CC&R documents I have seen are pretty clear that most boards are only allowed to sign 1 year contracts. I would personally hate to be elected to a board that has many multi year contracts that are not favorable or things that the new board does not agree with. It really ties the new board hands.

I think your general guidelines you stated are all good for selecting vendor and 3 bids are a must but wondering about the 3 year contracts.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3583


05/07/2019 8:37 PM  
Posted By MarkM19 on 05/07/2019 7:21 PM
NpS,
All of the CC&R documents I have seen are pretty clear that most boards are only allowed to sign 1 year contracts. I would personally hate to be elected to a board that has many multi year contracts that are not favorable or things that the new board does not agree with. It really ties the new board hands.

I think your general guidelines you stated are all good for selecting vendor and 3 bids are a must but wondering about the 3 year contracts.




Thanks for your thoughts Mark.

Nothing in our CC&Rs limits contracts to one year. For something like landscaping, 3 years is ideal for us. First year is always a break-in period. By the second year, the vendor knows the property and the quirky owners, we've worked out the kinks of how to work together, and the HOA has a good understanding of what the vendor can actually deliver (not always what was originally promised). In the third year, we're going out to bid for the next 3-year cycle.

A 3-year contract makes us more valuable to a vendor. Instead of a $40k contract, they're bidding on a $120k contract. Makes a big difference, especially when you're a less than 100-unit community.

3 bids is standard, but not enough for us. We're typically evaluating 5-6 bids within our acceptable price range. If a vendor we hired doesn't cut it, we've got 1, 2, or more backups ready to step in based on the bid we already have in hand. We did that once when a landscaper went out of business, and another time when a landscaper tried to hold us hostage mid-season - We cut him loose and had another vendor finish the season. Like I said, vendors sign our contracts, we don't sign theirs.

We think it's a waste of time to go through the eval process every year. How many HOA Board's spend 4-7 hours interviewing potential vendors after narrowing the field down to less than 6 candidates? None that I know of. Doing it every year would be tough. Giving up a full day once every 3 years, manageable.

As far as new Board members wanting to change vendors, we don't have the luxury of candidates ready to serve. But if we did, there is always the ability in our contracts to terminate for cause. I wouldn't think much of a new Board member who wants to pick a different vendor without a valid reason to get rid of the existing one.







Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:371


05/07/2019 9:04 PM  
NpS,
As a existing board member and trusting our boards decision I would be happy to sign a 3 year contract. My issue would be walking into a leadership role in an HOA and having nothing to decide. I get that most contracts have 30 day outs but most never exercise those options. I can see your logic and maybe a compromise is not doing all the same year. This would also make things easier for boards.

I have also mentioned in previous posts that I would have our PM send out a note to all current vendors every year stating that if any vendors wished to increase rates we would automatically go out for bids for similar services. This kept annual increases to a minimum.

Every HOA should be run as a business and no 2 are exactly alike. We all need to do our best and make decisions that gets the job done. Your decision are based on what you see in your community.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3583


05/07/2019 10:10 PM  
Posted By MarkM19 on 05/07/2019 9:04 PM
NpS,
As a existing board member and trusting our boards decision I would be happy to sign a 3 year contract. My issue would be walking into a leadership role in an HOA and having nothing to decide. I get that most contracts have 30 day outs but most never exercise those options. I can see your logic and maybe a compromise is not doing all the same year. This would also make things easier for boards.



Plenty to decide - If you can shift your attention to long term issues - Biggest problem I see in most HOAs. We do stagger contracts - We never have a more than one new vendor start in any year. With no MC, PM, or employees, we're the hands-on managers. We lack the resources to do it any other way.

I have also mentioned in previous posts that I would have our PM send out a note to all current vendors every year stating that if any vendors wished to increase rates we would automatically go out for bids for similar services. This kept annual increases to a minimum.



Nice approach.

Every HOA should be run as a business and no 2 are exactly alike. We all need to do our best and make decisions that gets the job done. Your decision are based on what you see in your community.



Totally agree. Too many people forget that we have a business to run. To do that properly, we need to constantly reassess what we want to accomplish over the long term. Anyone joining our Board with that kind of attitude will thrive in our community.



Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8556


05/08/2019 3:16 AM  
Our two contracts (MC and Landscaper) were originally for one year with automatic renewal at the end of the year and each side having a 30 day, no penalty cancellation notice. Both have kept their pricing the same for the past 3 years. We do throw additional business to the landscaping company.
JeffW6
(Florida)

Posts:65


05/08/2019 4:22 AM  
Nice job! The way it should be!
JeffW6
(Florida)

Posts:65


05/08/2019 4:25 AM  
100% agree!
JeffW6
(Florida)

Posts:65


05/08/2019 4:36 AM  
You are exactly correct!
JeffW6
(Florida)

Posts:65


05/08/2019 4:36 AM  
You are exactly correct!
JeffW6
(Florida)

Posts:65


05/08/2019 4:36 AM  
You are exactly correct!
JeffW6
(Florida)

Posts:65


05/08/2019 4:36 AM  
You are exactly correct!
JeffW6
(Florida)

Posts:65


05/08/2019 4:36 AM  
You are exactly correct!
JeffW6
(Florida)

Posts:65


05/08/2019 4:36 AM  
You are exactly correct!
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3583


05/08/2019 5:45 AM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 05/08/2019 3:16 AM
Our two contracts (MC and Landscaper) were originally for one year with automatic renewal at the end of the year and each side having a 30 day, no penalty cancellation notice. Both have kept their pricing the same for the past 3 years. We do throw additional business to the landscaping company.



Nice. Our agreement accomplishes the same thing. No penalties for 30 day cancellation by either side, but an expectation that services will be provided through the end of the season.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3583


05/08/2019 5:54 AM  
Posted By NpS on 05/08/2019 5:45 AM
Posted By JohnC46 on 05/08/2019 3:16 AM
Our two contracts (MC and Landscaper) were originally for one year with automatic renewal at the end of the year and each side having a 30 day, no penalty cancellation notice. Both have kept their pricing the same for the past 3 years. We do throw additional business to the landscaping company.



Nice. Our agreement accomplishes the same thing. No penalties for 30 day cancellation by either side, but an expectation that services will be provided through the end of the season.




Another reason we go with our 3-year RFQ system is that we lock in pricing for 3 years. Some bid with price escalation. Others freeze prices for the full 3 years. We don't expect vendors to lock in prices for more than 3 years, but similar to Mark, we will extend additional years without going out to bid if the vendor doesn't raise prices for the following year.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
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