Lexington council member says city spends too much on golf courses

Urban County Council member Jay McChord said Tuesday the city spends an excessive amount subsidizing its golf courses and he will push to get that amount reduced, given the city's limited finances.

At council work session, McChord said the city spends $3.2 million annually in the operation and maintenance of its five public golf courses. The courses generate $2 million, "which means we're spending $1.2 million on golf," McChord said. That amount is excessive and is an expense the city can ill afford given its current budget, he said.

McChord raised the issue, he said, to give council a heads-up that at next Tuesday's work session he will introduce a resolution to cap the level of subsidy. He did not specify what he thought that amount should be.

But with their vote, McChord said, every council member will have to go on record showing their support for using limited city funds to subsidize the sport.

Last year in his proposed 2012 budget, Mayor Jim Gray recommended closing Meadowbrook Golf Course to save money. Council members voted to keep it open.

In January, parks and recreation officials presented a business plan for the courses that allowed each to raise its rates by as much as 20 percent. The lengthy list of changes included letting each course offer discounts to increase play and remain open year-round, with winter rates introduced.

Mike Fields, manager of golf services, told council at the time that if the new management strategy goes well, the city subsidy could be cut to $700,000 in fiscal year 2012 and possibly lower in the future.

On Tuesday, Vice Mayor Linda Gorton reminded McChord that council members said they would give the new business plan one year to see the impact of the new rates.

McChord replied, "I am willing to subsidize golf, but not to the tune of $700,000."

"Public and private courses are overbuilt," he said. "We have to make some hard decisions. Government can't be all things to all people."