Golf commission asks questions, urges prompt action on rates

Pam Ritter, chair of the golf course commission, spoke before the common council at a Golf Course Committee meeting on Tuesday. According to Ritter, the course’s revenues are projected to fall short of expenses by approximately $80,000 this year. This shortfall was planned for during the 2015-2016 budget process, and the common council approved a general fund transfer to cover it. The shortfall is due to a 2010 bond which included improvements to the golf course, which had been mistakenly paid for completely out of the general fund.

At a budget meeting on May 4, 2015, Controller Matt Agresta said, “The general fund was paying debt that the golf course should have been for the last 4 years…So that payment is now being attributed, correctly, to the golf fund.”

At the same meeting last year, Agresta said approximately $649,000 was borrowed in 2010 for various projects on the golf course including $200,000 for drainage work, $200,000 for work on the cart paths, $40,000 for maintenance building upgrades, $181,000 for equipment, and $28,000 for the golf course’s portion of the purchase of KVS accounting software. Agresta said that numbers provided by the City Engineer’s office confirmed the allocations on the various projects.

Ritter also questioned whether several expense lines in the golf course’s budget, such as payments to the NY State retirement fund, social security and medicare, and hospital and medical insurance, were allowed under NY state requirements for special revenue funds.

Ritter said that the questions that she and rest of the commission had would make it difficult to create a proposed budget for the next fiscal year. However, she urged the council to approve the upcoming season’s rates by March 1 in order to remain competitive with other area courses. Ritter said the new proposed rates will be higher, but will simplify the fee structure.

Alderman Jim Martuscello said the council should be proactive in working with the golf commission with their proposed budget and fees and to provide answers on the issues they brought up.

“There’s a lot of questions here that we need to ask,” said Martuscello. “I’m not going to go out there to the golfers and tell them we have to raise the rates and we don’t have answers for them.”

“The problem is if you do not approve them, we are not staying on target with competitors,” said Ritter. “Our competitors are already putting their rates out. We have to advertise. We have an additional 55 cart spaces that are available, we can advertise that. We’ve come up with a very generous – well yes we have increased rates, but we’ve also given up stuff too – that I think…that you will see as being very fair and I think the members will be very pleased, so they aren’t nickel and dimed.”

Ritter said the new rates were created with input from the golf pro and course superintendent.

“I’m a little confused here. You’re asking for help, but yet, in other words, you’re telling us this is what it’s going to be,” said Martuscello. “Do you want help or do you just want to come up here and give us your rates? Which one do you want?”

“What she’s saying is, we need to move forward with these rates. We can’t wait another month before we put these rates out,” said Alderman Ed Russo, who is also the golf course committee chair.

Martuscello said he wants to see if some of the course expenditures could be reduced. Russo said he was willing to consider the ideas at the next council meeting on March 1.

“If you can reduce expenditures, then how can you just sit there and say this is what the rate is going to be?” asked Martuscello.

“There’s two separate clocks ticking, that’s all we’re trying to say,” said Bob Karutis, vice-chair of the golf course commission. “There’s a clock for the rates to be set so that we can stay competitive and compete with everybody in the area. And there’s a clock for getting the issues and questions answered. And they don’t line up. But if we get our rates set, and get competitive, and the course stays really nice like it is now, and how we anticipate it to be this year, we’ll have a really good year. If we get the questions answered, and if they get answered in 2,3,4,5 months, next year it’ll be a bonanza.”

An ordinance which would clarify that the council has the final authority to approve golf course rates, as well as require commission members to serve coterminous with the mayor, was included in the Tuesday’s agenda for introduction purposes. There will be a public hearing before the next common council meeting on March 1 at which the ordinance will be voted on.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.