A six-year overview of Amsterdam golf course finances


The city’s municipal golf course has operated at a deficit every year from fiscal year 2012 through 2016, according to audit reports and state-required financial reports. Inconsistent appropriation of budgeted transfers between the general fund and golf course fund played a role in affecting the negative $481,153 fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2016, however the overall impact was minimal in comparison to similar issues with the transportation fund.

The chart below shows the revenues, expenses, surplus or deficit, budgeted inter-fund transfers vs actual transfers, the overall yearly deficit including transfers, and end-of-year fund balances.

Usually, a fund balance is adjusted up or down according to the fund’s surplus or deficit each year, however several adjustments and corrections made by auditors also affected the balances, and those instances are explained below.

* According to the 2013-2014 annual update document (AUD), an adjustment to the golf course’s beginning-of-year fund balance was made, increasing the balance by $55,297 to start the year with a positive $29,093. According to audit report for 2013-2014, the end-of-year fund balance was decreased by auditors by $7,916 due to corrected errors. The final end-of-year fund balance of negative $116,607 reflects the AUD adjustment, the auditor’s adjustment, and the excess of expenditures over revenues for the fiscal year of $82,087.

** According to the audit report, auditors decreased the 2014-2015 end-of-year golf course fund balance by $148,037 due to “liabilities not recorded at the end of June 30, 2014.”

The budgeted transfer out of the golf course fund for 2010-2011 was not recorded in the city’s budget document.

Additional notes and thoughts:

In regards to the city’s financial reports, it’s important to remember that all reports came in several years late. The 2011-2012 AUD was not submitted until 2014. The 2012-13 AUD was not submitted until 2015. The 2013-2014 audit was not completed until 2016, and the audits for 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 were not completed until last year. Because of that, city officials, including the golf course commission, did not have accurate up-to-date financial reports to help them make decisions.

Since the city’s fiscal years end in June and begin in July, the golf course’s operating seasons are essentially cut in half for the purposes of financial reporting. Each fiscal-year-based report reflects the beginning half of one season and the ending half of the previous season.

The subject as to whether the city is justified in appropriating a transfer from the golf course fund to the general fund, referred to in the city’s budget as an “administration fee” has been the subject of debate at past common council meetings and among online commenters. However, as the chart shows, the fee has been sporadically budgeted and appropriated.

I’ve seen commenters on Facebook and on the Compass question whether changes made to the way the course handles cart rentals during a contentious period of time in 2014 is responsible for the course’s deficit. During that time a compromise was reached that gave Golf Pro Joe Merendo an increase in his compensation, but ended his cart rental operation, beginning the city’s responsibility for leasing and renting carts for the course.

According to the city’s budget document, the city has consistently budgeted $32,000 each year for the past three years to lease the course’s golf carts, and $58,405 each year for projected revenue from the carts. This suggests that while the operation did not bring is as much as was originally expected (originally revenues where budgeted at $127,856),  the carts still generate a net revenue. However, as we know, actual revenues and expenses don’t always meet budgeted amounts. The increase to Merendo’s compensation and other increases in benefits paid also have to be taken into consideration. I will endeavor to complete an analysis of actual revenue expense lines within a few weeks. Stay tuned!

Tim Becker

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