City Council considering what to do with $2.7 million golf course deficit

Washington City, May 23, 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY – A handful of residents addressed the City Council Wednesday concerning the potential transfer of money from the city’s sewer fund to cover a $2.7 million deficit attached to the Green Spring Golf Course.

Built in 1987, the city-owned and operated Green Spring Golf Course, located at 588 W. Green Spring Drive, has run a deficit for many years, with money covering the negative cost taken from other city funds.

“The negative cash flow was noted each year in the annual audit and under the previous accounting rules,” Mayor Ken Neilson said as he read from a prepared report. “Loans from other city funds were allowed and granted to cover this shortfall.”

The Utah Legislature changed accounting and reporting requirements for government entities in 2014 in an effort to produce more transparency. This has led to the city needing to address negative balances and cash flows, as well as take public input on the matter.

In the past few years, the city’s sewer fund has accrued a positive balance of around $4.7 million. As such, a potential transfer of the money from that fund to the Green Spring Golf Course is considered an option.

Any transfer isn’t expected to raise sewer fund fees for residents, Neilson said, adding that the future sale of city property could be earmarked for the purpose of paying back the sewer fund over the next five-to-ten years.

As the public hearing progressed, the majority of those who approached the City Council spoke against the potential fund transfer.

I don’t see any resolution for the golf course,” one city resident said, adding it’s just prolonging the golf course’s slow death. “I think you’re just throwing money in the air,” he said.

A common theme among the residents who spoke to the council was the idea that the city was taking money taxpayers paid for a particular purpose – that wasn’t supporting the Green Spring Golf Course. Some compared the potential action to stealing from the taxpayers and called it “immoral.”

“You shouldn’t take funds from others in the community to benefit others,” resident Dennis Iverson said, saying keeping the golf course going only benefited golfers and not the citizens.

Others argued the golf course should be self-sustaining, and that if it wasn’t, the city should get rid of it.

Councilmen Jeff Turek and Thad Seegmiller both said the city has considered the possibility of selling the golf course, as well as privatizing it.

One measure that has been implemented is cutting back on full and part-time staff, as salaries and retirement make up a big part of the operational cost, Seegmiller said.

The City Council didn’t take any action on the proposed funds transfer Wednesday, though will decide on a possible course of action at a future council meeting.

The council will continue to look at possible options concerning the future of the Green Spring Golf Course, council members said.

Other business

A public hearing was held on the city’s tentative 2015-16 budget. The budget general fund is estimated to be $14.2 million with an overall fund of $52.5 million.

Though the public hearing concluded Wednesday, City Manager Roger Carter said the City Council is still taking public input up until June 10. A PDF copy of the city budget can be found on the Washington City website. A hard copy is also available at the Washington County Library at 220 N. 300 East.

A bid for the Warm Springs Detention Basin drainage improvements project was awarded to JP Excavation for $227,000. The project is intended to reduce future flooding of the Main Street area in the event of major rain storms.

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  • tcrider May 28, 2015 at 9:36 am

    this is not a hard one to figure out, how about raising taxes on residents that live on the outer perimeter of the golf course the highest, and then everyone elses that lives within three blocks of the golf course a second tier of a tax range. And then also raise the fees for the people golfing, the one or two percent that use this course are the ones that should be paying, not the common washington residents. The money needing to be raised for this bs water wasting golf course, would much better be allocated for washington residents that live on main street, the street needs to be dug up and redone to a lower elevation, so water will not flood out homeowners living on the street because the elevation of street is higher than homeowners property. this is what I would do if I were king.

    • sagemoon May 28, 2015 at 10:17 am

      All hail King TCRIDER!

    • laytonian May 28, 2015 at 10:57 am

      You assume that the residents around the golf course actually play golf.

      Even BETTER idea: raise the rates at the golf course. If it can’t support itself, close it. Golf is a dying game that is losing interest nationwide. The “golf generation” is gradually dying off; I only know a few people under 60 who play.

      • izzymuse May 28, 2015 at 11:07 pm

        This can also apply to most things government is wasting tax dollars on: postal service, health care, and most things that should be run by the experts and private sector. 😀

  • Lastdays May 28, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Whats the full history of this golf course? Didn’t it start out as a private course when the developers presented the initial plans to the Washington City Council? I believe after the homes started to be built the developer couldn’t afford to “actually” complete the course without the City taking it over. My history of the chain of events is a little fuzzy but I don’t believe the City ever intended or wanted to build a Municipal G.C. It just kind of evolved that way. Now it’s it’s a huge financial burden for them.

  • Brian May 28, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    I’m so sick of government waste, inefficiency, idiocy, and corruption. Run it like a business: reduce costs, raise rates, sell it, or close it. Normal citizens and businesses are having to suck it up and tighten their belts left and right, join the club.

    • 42214 May 28, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      I’m an avid golfer and love playing this course but I have to admit that Brian is 100% correct.

    • izzymuse May 28, 2015 at 11:05 pm

      I agree.

  • Chris May 28, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    I suspect that this is not the only public golf course in the area that loses money. In fact, I’d be surprised if any of them are in the black. There has been a prevalent attitude among civic leaders that tolerates these deficits in the belief that golf tourism provides tax revenues elsewhere that make up for the operational losses at the courses. Whether that is true or not is not clear.

  • mshaw May 28, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Maybe Mike shaw can buy new Ford trucks and sell the old ones to family for dirt cheap and disclose what they should bid and give the monies to the course

  • izzymuse May 28, 2015 at 10:58 pm

    Get government out of the business of business- PERIOD!
    Here’s how:

    • sagemoon May 29, 2015 at 8:16 am

      Right on, Izzymuse.

    • Brian May 29, 2015 at 9:01 am

      I agree, but the first step to doing so is getting the government out of OUR business (and businesses) when they shouldn’t be there in the first place. Probably 80% of government spending is on things it shouldn’t be doing in the first place. So things should be eliminated first, then out of what is remaining things should be privatized where it is more efficient. But doing the wrong thing with 100% efficiency is still wrong and a complete waste.

  • brettybret May 29, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Labor costs and Water costs are two of the largest costs of most golf courses. In general, I’d like to see municipalities improve their architecture of golf courses (grey water, double greens/fairways, and smaller courses) and implement native elements to the golf courses (more natural waste areas, native grasses and plants). With less grass to mow and water golf courses should be able to lower costs. Green Springs, specifically could shorten some holes, decrease fairway width, share fairways and sell off portions of the course to developers to decrease costs and make up the short fall. A good remodel could save the city money… it would probably would be what a private property holder would do.

  • Bowlinggreen123 May 31, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Playing all day for $22 is not going to do it. Cheap golf is not the answer.
    The city courses both Washington and St George are tax subsidized so they don’t care how much money they make or don’t make. Take a look at Salt Lake they are shutting down 3 major courses because they don’t make what they spend. They need to show the money spent by tourists on other things who come for golf like hotels and food make up for the loss.

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