Self-sustaining city golf course idea dies

bfortune@herald-leader.comJune 16, 2010 

A proposal to make the city's six publicly owned golf courses financially self-sustaining died Tuesday after several council members expressed strong reservations about the change.

The 7-6 vote came a week after the head of the city's parks division proposed the move to help better understand all revenue and expenses at the courses. Owners of the area's private golf courses also had complained that because taxpayers subsidize the city's courses, it is difficult for the private courses to compete.

Jerry Hancock, director of Parks & Recreation, continues to support the idea of what's called an enterprise fund for the city's golf courses.

"But I don't think he expected it to be done the next week," said Kimra Cole, the city's commissioner of general services. Hancock thought the topic would be put into committee and studied, Cole said on his behalf. Hancock was not at Tuesday's meeting.

Criticism of the courses had emerged because it was unclear just how much money they were losing each year.

Hancock previously said the courses lost about $11,000 last year, but that figure did not include expenses such as debt service, property taxes and salaries for golf course superintendents.

An enterprise fund would capture all the money generated by the courses, including merchandise and beverage sales, and track all expenses such as utility costs and chemical fees to maintain the course.

However, Cole said there are other ways to track the courses' revenue and expenses without setting up an enterprise fund. Council members, including at-large councilwoman Linda Gorton, expressed reluctance about establishing the fund without more study.

Cole said there are many legal questions that need to be answered about the move, as well as "a lot of questions involving civil service employees."

Councilman Tom Blues noted, too, that the city courses make golf affordable for many people who could not otherwise afford to play.

"The courses support training young people in the sport. They support high school golf practice," he said. "It's a real return for our taxpayers."

Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251.

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