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Sales tax is not being allocated fairly, golfer asserts

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Dennis Phillips is fed up with the portrayal of Devil's Thumb Golf Club as the "black sheep of the community." He shared strong thoughts on the subject at two consecutive Delta City Council meetings.

He began by referring to comments made by city council candidates "posturing to condemn the golf course even before elected."

Only Ron Austin commented positively when he said, in a DCI profile of candidates, "We're not going to sell Delta strictly because we've got a really nice golf course up there, but if you get other tourism-related businesses and activities going here, it's a natural that there will be people who come in who golf."

The city-owned golf course, Phillips pointed out, was rated #2 in the category "Best Western Slope Course" in an online survey conducted by the magazine Avid Golfer.

In the same profile of candidates, Gerald Roberts said one area that bears close inspection is the transfers to the golf course, which continue to come out of utility funds, even after citizens voted to allow broader use of the sales tax dedicated to the recreation center.

Phillips, an avid golfer, said he was a member of the citizen financial task force that recommended city council put that question before the voters. The committee felt that supporting the golf course with sales tax revenues would be fairer than relying on utility funds, because the sales tax is paid by virtually everyone who uses city amenities, including county and out-of-area residents.

Phillips dug deeper, and learned the 1 percent sales tax previously devoted solely to the recreation center generated $1,729,799 last year. Of that, $1,048,376 went to the rec center, $681,422 went to the parks department, and zero dollars went to the golf course.

"Not one thin dime was used to supplement the funds to the golf course," he told council. "This was not the intent of the tax vote ... yet we continue to harp on having utility money subsidize our golf course.

"Let's discuss transfers to the parks department," Phillips said. This year, the parks budget totals $933,000, and parks bring in very little revenue.

"The city is not treating the golf course fairly, and it's being deceitful to our voters, to our citizens and to our ratepayers," he said.

At the April 19 city council meeting, Phillips wrapped up his thoughts by complimenting department director Wilma Erven and golf course manager Ken Brown on their efforts to make the golf course operate more efficiently.

During the winter months, Brown painted the inside of the clubhouse, cleaned the kitchen, mopped the floors, and handled maintenance issues. "How many pros around this country would you find doing that kind of work? Most of them would be sitting at home watching the Golf channel," he said.

Last year, Phillips added, total transfers to the golf course were $410,000; in previous years they exceeded $600,000. The subsidy of $7.59 per month per utility rate payer is a "tremendous improvement over what's gone on before."

If the sales tax were allocated more fairly among the recreation center, parks and the golf course, Phillips said the subsidy would be reduced to practically nothing.

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Devil's Thumb, Sales Tax
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