Jeff golf course manager provides budget info

The Jefferson Community Golf Course has been called by some a city asset and by others a city money drain since the city purchased it in 2013.

Resident Denny Lautner is one of the naysayers. He addressed the city council at its Sept. 26 meeting, asking why an income and expense schedule is never published. “Show the taxpayers how much money this golf course makes,” Lautner said.

He said he considers the golf course “a place for the rich to play and party at the city taxpayers’ expense.” He suggested that if the golf course is not making money, the “dues” should be increased rather than using taxpayer dollars.

Last week golf course manager Micah Destival talked about the budget with GreeneCountyNewsOnline. The bottom line is that comparing revenues to expenses, the golf course showed a deficit of $55,714 during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017.
Revenues for the year ending June 30, 2017, were estimated at $156,791; the actual was $157,200. Total operating costs were estimated at $183,125; the actual was $237,205. Inventory for the pro shop, beverages and chemicals on hand brought the profit/loss figure to a negative $55,714.

The largest difference between estimated and actual on the expense side of the budget was grounds maintenance, estimated at $7,000 and actual at $30,133. However, the subtotal for repair, maintenance and utilities showed a change of only $14,000.

Destival first explained that using a fiscal year to discuss golf course budget is difficult because the golf season spans two fiscal years. Estimating revenues calls for a best guess of how many season passes will be sold, and those sales don’t happen until the last two or three months of the fiscal year. Expenses incurred in August are in the same budget as season passes sold the next May.

Destival was hired to manage the golf course before the 2015 season. He’s now completing his third season, and he’s confident he has better data to work with in planning for the next budget. “It’s been interesting to see what works and what doesn’t,” he said.

During the 2015 season, Destival’s first season, there were 120 season pass holders. There were 140 in 2016, and although there were 44 new season pass holders in 2017, the net number remained at 140. Some annual pass holders died, but the bigger reason people don’t purchase again in a subsequent year seems to be family commitments to children.

About half the season pass holders are older than 60. There are only a few who are ages 40-55, and more younger people. Many of them played golf with their parents and are continuing with the game.

Efforts have been made to market the course outside of Jefferson, but more than 90 percent of season pass holders are Jefferson residents. When people from other towns golf at the municipal course they often compliment the facility and the condition of the greens.

He said the season pass cost is lower than at most golf courses. “The city wants to keep golf affordable so we keep the prices low,” he said.

Rentals of the upstairs meeting/social room has increased, helping revenue, and Destival looks for that to increase. There’s space for up to 80 people comfortably, and it has been used for rehearsal dinners, class reunions, business meetings, and wedding receptions.

Destival said it’s difficult for any golf course to show a profit. He calculates that 165 season pass holders would generate the revenue for a break-even budget. Since he first became manager, he has pushed for more young golfers, with or without their parents. He is looking at ways to have golf as part of the physical education curriculum.

The golf course is not the only city-owned recreational facility subsidized with tax dollars. The pool and the community center also have annual expenses that exceed revenue. However, most municipal planners have always advocated for such amenities to improve the quality of life for residents and to attract new residents.

The suggestions of facilities like a water park and a youth sports complex in the Vision 2020 planning process verify the role of recreational amenities in a town.

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