Sunday, May 8, 2016

Putting the Golf Cart Before the Horse

At Executive Committee last Monday we were asked to approve a proposal for a ten-year Asset Management Plan for repairs and upgrades at the golf course, including $2 million to replace the irrigation system.  Once approved, this would be followed by a financial plan for how this all would be paid for.

You might have thought, as I did, that this is the sort of thing that should have been raised during budget proceedings, rather than being brought for approval in the middle of the year.  I mean, we're not talking insignificant amounts, and these needs should have been known last year.  Putting it before Council now, and claiming that it's now urgent, is poor planning, in my opinion.

I was also amazed by the statement by one member of council - that the golf course makes money for the city.  For the record, it returns no money to city revenues.  It does claim to be self-sufficient, but its financial tracking is murky - I know that in the past Parks would buy equipment that would later turn out to be used exclusively by the golf course.  This kind of convoluted financial figuring makes one suspicious.  And, of course, like other civic facilities, it doesn't pay for its water usage, which means that $90,000 yearly is spent watering the greens with drinkable water, and this plan didn't include anything that indicated that they were intending to change this wasteful practice.

And to be quite  honest, a golf course is not something that only the city can provide.  I do not golf myself, but Guthrie occasionally golfs with his buddies, and they don't go to Cooke - they go to one of the private golf courses just outside the city.  This tells me that a golf course doesn't need to rely on taxpayers' money to survive.  Now I can just hear golfers getting worked up - those smaller courses don't provide the level of golfing that they like.  I don't dispute that; I just think that they should not expect the taxpayer to subsidize the minority of city residents that golf at Cooke.

And golfing at Cooke is not for lower income residents.  The basic green fee, according to the city website (which still was using 2015 rates) was $51.00 - no wonder Guthrie goes elsewhere.  Annual memberships can run into the thousands.  But that seems to be how we do things - we want to provide residents with "world class" facilities, but we don't expect them to pay full freight.

And then to expect us to approve this plan, before we have any idea how it will be financed - well, that's the corner we're too often backed into - we approve something before we know all the costs, then have to go to the taxpayer afterward to pay the bills.  Let's start acting responsibly, try living within our means, and stop subsidizing those who can afford to pay for their own recreational preferences.

"You'll  never out-earn your bad habits and stupidity.  You have to change your habits and get smart with your money." - Mary Hunt

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