Golf

Lexington public golf courses now run more efficiently, Urban County Council is told

Lexington taxpayers are expected to subsidize city golf about $500,000 less this year because of better business at the city's five public courses.

Sally Hamilton, commissioner of general services, told the Urban County Council on Tuesday that she anticipated the city's subsidy of golf would drop from $1.2 million in fiscal year 2011 to about $735,000 in fiscal year 2012, which ends June 30.

As the council began deliberating the city's next budget and spending plan, council member Jay McChord asked Hamilton last week for a report on golf's revenue, expenses and rounds played per course.

Hamilton told the council Tuesday she thought the golf program was on a long-term "path to success."

The picture looks brighter because there has been an increase in the rounds played and in overall golf revenue, and operating costs have been cut.

A new business plan implemented in January gives each course flexibility in setting rates for various membership categories. Winter rates were implemented, and lower seasonal rates were introduced. Ladies Day is in effect Monday through Friday, and the age for seniors was dropped to 50. Several online promotional strategies were started on sites including Facebook and Golfnow.com.

In a cost-cutting move, the Meadowbrook golf superintendent works half-time. In addition, four public service employees were transferred from golf to general parks maintenance.

Weather also helped the bottom line. In the first 10 months of fiscal year 2012, 63,344 rounds of golf were played, compared with 59,252 rounds for the same period in 2011.

Several council members thanked Hamilton for bringing solid information about the true cost of operating the courses, something Julian Beard said they had requested for five years.

At the end of the discussion, McChord asked council member Steve Kay, whose budget subcommittee oversees the parks and recreation department budget, to give council a recommendation within the next few weeks of what the city subsidy for golf should be and the rationale for that subsidy.

The discussion is part of the council's consideration of Mayor Jim Gray's budget of $289.3 million for fiscal year 2013. That is an increase of 5 percent from the current fiscal year's budget.

The final budget document must be approved by June 30.

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