On July 1, 2014, the Three Rivers Market Board made some important changes to the bylaws and established the required equity requirement to assure a sound level of capital funding for the cooperative. In the past, the Board has required purchase of at least one (1) $25 Membership Interest per year. Once a member had purchased eight (8) $25 Membership Interests, the member was eligible for a patronage dividend. Some people have elected to pay the $200 all at once, or payments larger than $25, to avoid having to pay something every year. We have calculated that over the next five years, 1,055 additional members would eventually reach Fair Share status if they purchased one Membership Interest per year. As of June 30, 2013, TRM had 455 Fair Share members, and as of July 2014, nearly 6,000 own one or more Membership Interests in the co-op.
However, under the old bylaws, the Fair Share members who joined eight years before were still on the hook to continue paying $25 per year beyond the $200 Fair Share amount, to remain members in good standing. Some members who joined in 2005 have already been required to purchase a ninth Membership Interest. The new bylaws were written to rectify this open-ended requirement for continuing $25 annual payments.
A new equity requirement has been established at $250, which represents a temporary cap on the annual requirement to purchase a Membership Interest. This requirement is set by the Board, which has the discretion to change it again in the future based on TRM’s financial position. We have also eliminated the term “Fair Share Patron Member” to describe a member who has $200 or more in shares. This means that everyone who owns eight shares will need to purchase just two more $25 shares over a period of two years to meet the required equity investment.
Most importantly, the bylaws have also been changed to make all owners eligible for an annual patronage dividend in the event that the Board determines that TRM can afford to share its profits in future years. Before the change, only Fair Share members were eligible. This will help TRM for income tax purposes because we will be able to decrease taxable income further. It will also benefit owners, since everyone will be eligible for a refund.
While patronage dividends are an important part of the cooperative business model, we recognize that most everyone likes to benefit financially sooner rather than later! Since our expansion and relocation in 2011, the co-op has allocated over $222,000 in discounts to our members on Member Discount Days, member deals throughout the store and offered during special events, and discounts on case quantities.
Membership in the Three Rivers Market cooperative means you are supporting a locally-owned business that exists to create and nourish a healthier environment, healthier people, and a healthier community. Moreover, owners of the cooperative enjoy financial and governance rights as a condition of that ownership. Please contact the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments.
President, Board of Directors