“We’ve trimmed down our budget to where we can’t trim anymore,” said Greg Toland with the golf board. “At this point we don’t have much left to trim, and we’ll have to increase the revenue … we need every nickel we get can get.”
For the current 2010-2011 budget cycle that ends next week, the council gave the golf course $50,000 with a stipulation that another $5,000 would be available if the Powell Golf Club needed additional money.
Toland told the council that they need it.
“The weather has been horrible, and revenue is down,” Toland said Monday.
In April, the golf course revenue was down 63 percent from the previous year. May numbers declined by 26 percent, he said.
“Our membership comes in when the weather is nice. But since the weather hasn’t been all that great, we haven’t gotten them out there,” Toland said. “I know times are tough. We’re trying to make it work with what we’ve been given, but this has been a bad year.”
Councilmen agreed to provide the additional $5,000 from the city’s general fund for the current year’s budget, saying the golf course is an asset to the city and fosters local economic growth.
“The city owns part of that facility,” Councilman Jim Hillberry said. “There comes a point where you have to invest in it or close it up. But we’re not at the point where we’re closing it up.”
The city owns the golf course’s clubhouse and land for the original nine holes (now the “back nine.”) However, the Powell Golf Club is not considered a city department, and the city does not help in the course’s daily operations.
“Sometimes I wonder, can Powell afford an 18-hole golf course?” Councilman Don Hillman asked. He noted that many of the other golf courses in Wyoming that receive municipal support also are in counties where an optional 1-cent sales tax supports the cities’ general funds.
All of Wyoming’s 23 counties have an optional fifth-cent tax, with the exception of Park, Fremont and Sublette counties.
“I don’t think that we can afford not to have a golf course,” Councilman John Wetzel said, adding that it’s valuable to Powell’s economy. Tournaments attract golfers from around the region, bringing money into the community, he said.
“It brings people to town. You’ve done unbelievable things to make it go,” Councilman Floyd Young told golf board members present at the council meeting.
Mayor Scott Mangold said he understands the golf course is an important amenity to Powell that supports economic growth. He also said he has taken some heat in the community and in letters to the editor published in the Tribune for his comments about the golf course.
“I understand the importance of it. I wish there was some magic answer for us. I’m working on it, but it’s going to be an uphill climb,” Mangold said.
“I think you’ve unduly gotten some heat,” Toland said. He noted that the golf course is partially owned by the city, and he said the golf board and staff want to make golfing affordable, but they also must maintain a revenue stream.
If rates are increased too much, the course loses revenue, but if rates go any lower, it loses revenue, Toland said.
“We’re trying to find that spot in the middle to stimulate revenue,” he said.
The city of Worland supports its golf course with $260,000 a year, Toland said.
“Our entire budget is $200,000, just to maintain the golf course,” he said.
He said the golf club receives funds from the Moyer Foundation and Park County Recreation District, but that money must be used toward capital improvements, not operations.
Toland said Powell’s golf course operates with a lower budget than most golf courses in the region. In the Peaks to Prairies Chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, Powell ranks the third lowest for its budget out of 150 golf courses, meaning 147 courses in the region have higher operating budgets than Powell, Toland said.
“For the money that’s spent out there, I think you get a good product,” Toland said.
Councilmen also said they would help provide fertilizer or herbicide for the golf club this summer if the city has some to share.