Thursday, August 27, 2009

3rd Question: Golf And Swim Funds

Here are the candidates responses to this question:

What should the city do to improve the bottom line for its golf courses, which are to receive $245,000 in subsidies this year, and swimming pools, which are scheduled to receive a subsidy of more than $580,000 from the general fund?

John Hubbard:I think if the golf courses and swimming pools were to lower their prices, they would have more business. After all, less is more.

Michael Winters: Lower entrance fees to allow everyone the opportunity to enjoy our pools and golf courses. At neighborhood pools, all children under age 12 should be admitted free. Adults and those over 12 would pay a reasonable fee. Lower fees will encourage greater usage. Rather than considering selling one of the golf courses, why not consider leasing one to a local company to run as a for-profit business that would appeal to tourists, out-of-town visitors and local golf enthusiasts? Treat customers like they are important. Consider leasing a good restaurant at Eagle Falls course. Currently, we are pricing ourselves out of business.

Mike Witsoe:Whoa! The biggest bleeder of all! Park and Rec. (Recreation) has been completely unorganized, overpaid, understaffed, lacking a qualified director, since 1994. Two thousand season pass holders in the 1990s, 700 in 2009 — where did all the golfers go? They raise fees, raise fees, raise fees! They forgot about seniors, students and family oriented golf. The foundation of all successful golf, skiing and swimming programs is the number of participants and a strong season pass foundation. Swimming is for kids. Missoula's water park costs $5 or less. Missoula has season passes, family oriented swimming. New blood in Parks and Rec. is the only answer.

Bill Bronson:I support continued operation of our swimming pools; our young people use the pools heavily, and they are a good use of taxpayer dollars. The community's 2006 vote in favor of capital improvements to our pools demonstrates the public supports this approach. As for golf, the commission has been working with staff and an advisory board to improve management and marketing at both courses, with the goal of making them more profitable. Within two years, should it appear current operation levels are not sustainable and we are still not able to cover all expenses, we will have to look at other options.

Sandra Guynn:I think both of these funds need to be examined very closely as to why they continue to lose money. It concerns me greatly when the director of the Fiscal Service Department reported that the golf fund would receive a $240,000 "gift" from the general fund. This was done in order to reduce the red ink this fund has been wallowing in for the past several years. Shifting monies around to make certain funds look better does not solve the problem. it adds to it.

Robert G. Jones:(Golfing friends) say golfing in Great Falls is the best deal around the state, with two courses. To improve the bottom line, we need to consider increasing the cost of season passes or eliminating them and implementing a pay-as-you-play system. We need to decide if the city can operate two golf courses profitably. Swimming pools nationally receive subsidies. However, $580,000 from the general fund seems extremely high, even considering carrying the debt of the Flow Rider. We need to consider our operating season, including days lost to inclement weather. A restructuring of our operation may be needed.

Ed McKnight:Seriously investigate privatization.

Rolland Leitheiser:Both the golf courses and the swimming pools are valuable amenities. If the city of Great Falls is to attract new businesses, amenities are very important parts of that process. Raising the rate will not improve the bottom line. I do not believe that funding these amenities from the general fund is wrong. I do not think that either of them needs to be self-sufficient — the parks, the tennis courts, the ball parks all need funding. We just need to run them as efficiently as possible, and fund the rest of it.

John Rosenbaum:The city's golf courses are long-term recreational facilities that enhance our city. However, we need to take a serious look at the practicalities of continuing with the number of courses we currently have. The swimming pools are an investment in our community, and especially young people's recreational opportunities. I believe they are extremely important, but we do need to examine if we are funding the pools adequately. Maybe we won't call it a subsidy — we will call it funding.

Donna Zook:Before I can make a decision on subsidies to the golf course and swimming pool, I need to review the whole financial picture in order to reconcile the financial situation. The city already has obligations to ECP (Electric City Power), the Animal Shelter and city development, and there are too many factors with regard to these obligations that are unknown to the public. The commission has not given the public straight answers with regard to various obligations and citizens are dismissed when the issues are raised at public meetings.

Fred Burow:How are the subsidies being spent? Is it a one-time cost for repairs and equipment? If not, then find ways to cut costs or look to user fee increases.

Kathleen Z. Gessaman:The public golf courses and swimming pools are wonderful resources for Great Falls residents and visitors. With the implementation of point-of-sale money collection systems, the city should soon have a better idea of when, what for and how much money is collected from these operations. Hopefully, this will allow identification of nonvalue-added activities and lead to productivity improvements. The city could pursue sponsorships to help reduce the golf debt and Flow Rider operating costs. Finding grant money to install a solar water heating system at the Flow Rider should be a city priority.


Golfdog said...

Maybe we could try having one course leased out and operated by a commercial enterprise for a few
years? Why not?

Anonymous said...

Go find out how much of the P&R Dept funds has been leeched to subsidize Police and other departments before you decide anything.

Also, find out why the P&R is doing the maintenance on the dog park when we didn't vote on it. (We voted on the skate park.) Dump that cost as it's a private venture and until we ALL agree to subsidize it, let the Animal Foundation pay for it.

P&R may just have enough funds to run itself if the group in office weren't stealing us blind.