Amid rising golf revenues, city will ask taxpayers to pay for course improvements
In a proposed budget that relies on a 4.8% tax hike and US bailout funds to boost spending, Concord taxpayers will once again be asked to pay for clubhouse improvements and the courses at Beaver Meadow Golf Course over the next fiscal year.
Concord’s golf fund has rebounded after a string of poor years before the pandemic. This year, he will both cover his expenses and transfer money to the general fund. But costlier upgrades to the course totaling more than $850,000 will be funded with borrowed money that will have to be repaid by taxpayers.
“Reflecting the increased year-round popularity and success of the golf course and property, several significant projects are being considered for fiscal year 2023,” City Manager Tom Aspell wrote in his budget letter.
If the current budget is approved, Concord taxpayers will pay for golf course capital improvements through general general fund obligations, including $490,000 for clubhouse redesign, $325,000 for irrigation and a $40,000 tractor.
Separate, smaller bonds will be underwritten and repaid by the golf fund, including $50,000 to pay for phase two of a tree management project, $70,000 for a fairway mower, plus $15,000 for maintenance costs. ‘irrigation.
Over the next fiscal year, a total of $855,000 of course general fund expenses will be paid through general bonds. In 2024, the capital improvement program includes expenditures from the general fund for a clubhouse and parking lot for approximately $4.5 million.
A five-member committee recommended building a new facility, with space for the New Hampshire Golf Association as a paying tenant, in a report to city council in December. “Building a new facility will help Beaver Meadow continue to grow as a year-round facility for the next 50 years!” wrote the Golf Club Ad Hoc Committee at Beaver Meadow Golf Course.
This month, some of the clubhouse’s flaws were illustrated when a broken water heater flooded the carpet and closed the restaurant for the day, costing the course revenue on a sunny Friday.
Ward 3 Councilwoman and longtime Beaver Meadow member Jennifer Kretovic pointed to other issues, such as rotting wood, a sagging ceiling and a single flimsy bracket securing a fence that protected the building’s cooling system. Kretovic also said the uneven pavement in the parking lot caused accessibility issues for voters during the municipal elections.
In the weeks leading up to the budget’s passage, signs supporting the golf course’s bids appeared on neighborhood lawns surrounding Beaver Meadow, created by Kretovic’s husband Bill and former At-Large Councilor Mark Coen. Councilor Kretovic and Coen both sit on the Beaver Meadow Golf Club clubhouse committee along with three other members of the business community.
The city changed the golf fund from a stand-alone corporate fund to a more open special income fund in fiscal year 2020. The corporate funds are meant to be self-sustaining, operating like businesses and charging users , while special income funds simply track income to be used for a specific purpose. Existing corporate funds are for water and wastewater.
Deputy city manager Brian LeBrun said the decision was made after conversations with city auditors and made sense given recent years’ transfers from the general fund to the golf fund.
“In special revenue funds in particular, there’s usually more support from the general operating fund to support operations,” LeBrun said.
Five times since fiscal year 2013, golf fund expenses have eclipsed revenues, necessitating a transfer of money from the general fund.
“If it hadn’t been for COVID, the golf course would be running an incredible deficit,” said former Ward 2 councilor Allan Herschlag.
Since the pandemic, golf nationwide has seen a resurgence in popularity. While it’s impossible to predict whether this trend will continue, Kretovic said the course’s 60 junior members and an increase in the number of female golfers at Beaver Meadow are good signs for the course’s long-term prospects.
The golf fund’s long-term projections estimate that it will operate at a net loss between 2024 and 2028. However, this includes budgeted transfers from the golf fund to the general fund, which are calculated annually to cover the administrative costs of the town.
“We try not to overestimate our earnings as we go through this,” LeBrun said. “If golf were to dip across the country like it has in the past, we may have to re-evaluate.”
About two-thirds of the golf fund’s revenue comes from fees, including season passes, cart rentals, daily course fees, and the cost of using the indoor simulator year-round. Another 10% of revenue comes from the golf pro shop.
Despite financial assistance from Concord taxpayers, townspeople receive no discount to play the course and pay the same fees as everyone else.
When a request to hire a full-time professional golf assistant at around $74,000 a year was presented to council in March, Ward 5 Councilor Stacey Brown and Ward 10 Councilor Zandra Rice Hawkins asked whether the council would also raise the salaries of lifeguards to the city’s seven. swimming pools.
Last summer, only five of seven pools were able to open because the city was struggling to hire enough lifeguards, who at the time were earning between $10.89 and $12.76 an hour.
“I think the golf course is great, however, I’ve heard from many families … that they really want to see the pools open longer,” Brown said at the March meeting. She was the only councilor to vote against hiring a full-time professional golf assistant.
The fiscal year 2023 budget included increases for pool and golf course workers.
The Parks and Recreation Department has requested $17,576 for wage increases for seasonal workers like lifeguards, who will be paid between $12 and $16 an hour this summer. If the budget is approved, the golf course will receive an additional $28,000 for temporary worker salaries, while arena staff will receive $7,100 in salary adjustments.
Kretovic said in a May interview that Concord ratepayers should care about the golf course as a community resource that makes the town more attractive. Just like pools and parks, Beaver Meadow also costs money to operate.
“It’s a quality of life issue,” she said.
Garrison Pool, on North State Street in Ward 3, was one of the pools that remained closed last summer. Kretovic said she could have pushed to open this pool, but she didn’t think it made sense for the city at the time.
“There has to be give and take throughout the community,” she said.