A proposal for directly subsidizing the Cedaredge Golf Course with as much as $145,380 from taxpayers and from sewer and water ratepayers is under consideration by the town board as it begins its budget talks.
Under the proposal, trustees would transfer $15,000 in cash from both the sewer and water funds to the golf course. Those infusions of operating money along with another $10,000 to $15,000 from the lottery trust fund would total $40,000 to $45,000 in cash to the golf course under a proposed 2017 budget.
In addition, the proposal includes writing off an equipment loan made to the golf course from the water fund, which as of August 2016 totaled $81,950.37. And, the remaining balance from the general fund loan of $36,000 taken four years ago to remodel the golf course restaurant would also be written off. After a $4,000 payment in March 2016, the balance of the clubhouse renovation loan is $16,000, according to town administrator Katie Sickles who made the proposal at a budget work session on Aug. 18.
The cash transfers from water and sewer funds could affect the rates paid for town utility service. During her presentation, Sickles asked rhetorically, "Could it result in increased [water and sewer] rates?" Then answering her own question she replied, "Yes."
She added that there will have to be a study of rates before knowing for sure if raises are required.
Following some brief remarks by trustees, Sickles said, "I'm hearing it is something you would consider."
The town's public works co-directors were concerned whether the proposal would result in a decline of revenues for public works projects.
A staff idea to "close the back nine," a difficult part of the course that is unpopular with players, was quickly dismissed by trustees. There was no discussion of raising golf fees at the town board work session.
Even with the cash infusions from water and sewer funds, town finance director Tamara Francis said, "It still won't cover completely the depreciation shortfall." The golf course is not generating enough revenue to pay for the equipment it is wearing out.
According to a recent audit, golf operations broke even on a cash basis in 2015, but the course lost ground financially because of depreciation expense that isn't being paid for. The accumulated golf course loss including depreciation for 2014 and 2015 combined was $111,901, according to an audit report. There was no indication that golf course financial results for the current year will show any improvement, and they may be worse than 2015.
Since 2001 the golf course business and finances "have been going down, down, down," Sickles said. Cedaredge golf pro Larry Murphy added another reason: in Cedaredge, older golfers are leaving the game and younger ones aren't taking it up. He told trustees at the work session that 16 individuals and five couples did not renew annual passes this year. On the other hand, only five individuals who had not previously bought annual passes did so.