Although voters approved a combined parks, recreation and golf department in November 2014, the City of Delta continues to transfer funds from utility accounts to offset golf course expenditures.
While all three departments are now under the supervision of Wilma Erven, funds cannot be combined because of the golf course debt, interim city manager Glen Black explained at a recent council meeting.
As posed to voters in 2014, the ballot question allowed expanded use of the three-quarter-cent sales tax previously dedicated to rec center operations and maintenance. Voter approval permitted use of the funds for all types of parks, recreation and open space uses, including Devil's Thumb. Black said the key word is may, as in those funds may be used for golf course operations.
In 2016, the city has budgeted transfers totaling $380,000 from the sewer, water and refuse funds. "We're hoping that we won't need it all," said councilmember Bill Raley.
In addition, expanded use of recreation center funds will eliminate the need for transfers to the general fund. "For the first time in my knowledge, the general fund will be self-sustaining," Black said.
The 2016 budget totals $28.6 million, and the mill levy has again been certified at zero. Property owners in Delta city limits pay no property taxes to support city operations; instead, the primary source of revenue is a 3 percent sales tax.
The golf course fund totals $919,914, which includes a portion of Wilma Erven's salary to recognize her supervisory role. In 2016, a mechanic's salary is also being moved from the internal services fund to the golf course fund, because he primarily works on golf carts and groundskeeping equipment.
In a follow-up interview, Erven discussed the cost-saving measures being taken to minimize transfers from the utility funds. The golf course is currently closed Wednesdays and Thursdays, the least busy days during the winter. Only Ken Brown, head golf pro, and Ian Peluso, golf course superintendent, are working full time; no seasonal personnel are currently on the payroll. Brown is running both the snack bar and the pro shop, with help from Erven. In the snack bar, food service is limited to hot dogs, packaged snacks and bottled pop and beer.
Operations on the golf course and in the clubhouse will ramp back up in the spring, but after a year of disappointing food and beverage sales, Erven said they'll be very selective about what's offered in the snack bar. "We won't be so tied to personnel costs and inventory," she said, "but we will gear up service for tournaments and club events."
Cost overruns in the snack bar, as well as the payment of accrued time off to two
departing fulltime employees, necessitated a supplemental appropriation of $50,000 earlier this month. Because of a very busy year, however, utility transfers were actually lower than the previous year.
"We're excited to see how far we've come in the past year," Erven said, "and we're really optimistic for 2016."
Devil's Thumb has had tremendous support not only from the local men's and women's clubs, but also from golfers throughout the region, she said.
The addition of Ken Brown has also been very positive. "He has some up with a lot of fun ideas," Erven said.
"We're on a mission to make this golf course as cost efficient as possible while offering an incredible product," she said. "I hope citizens realize we truly are working to make Devil's Thumb an asset ... another amenity that might bring folks to our community."