Baker City Manager Fred Warner Jr., in his report to the City Council recommending councilors spend $70,890 to buy 15 rental carts for the city-owned Quail Ridge Golf Course, wrote that buying the carts and renting them to the company that runs the golf course “appears to be a good business decision.”
Warner assembled a compelling case.
Compelling enough, anyway, to convince councilors to approve the cart purchase Tuesday evening.
The city seems to have covered its financial bases. But the repayment from the golf course manager will take about eight years, and city officials need to be diligent in making sure the numbers on Warner’s report pan out.
Such has not always been the case with the golf course.
In the early 2000s the city had to transfer about $150,000 from its general fund — which includes the police and fire departments — to cover deficits in the golf course fund.
Those transfers resulted from overly optimistic predictions about how an investment in the golf course — in that case building nine new holes — would be recouped with increased revenue.
To be sure, the Council’s decision Tuesday to buy 15 rental carts is a comparatively small investment, and it’s one the city planned for in the current fiscal year, which started July 1, 2017.
Moreover, the $70,890 is a transfer not from the general fund, but from the equipment and vehicle fund, which is set up to maintain and fuel public works vehicles and to replace equipment as needed. Money for the equipment and vehicle fund comes from other public works funds such as the water and sewer departments.
The city also has set up a repayment plan.
Brooks Golf Management LLC, which operates Quail Ridge Golf Course for the city, will pay $10,000 per year toward repaying the $71,000 transfer from the equipment and vehicle fund. City officials estimate it will take eight years to repay the loan, with interest. After that, Brooks Golf Management will continue to pay $10,000 per year, the money to be used to buy other golf course equipment or for maintenance of the course.
That’s a reasonable proposal — as long as the money comes in on schedule.
Using the general fund as a bailout is not an acceptable option, based on the figures that Jeanie Dexter, the city’s finance director, gave to councilors and budget board members barely a week ago.
Dexter said that based on the current projections, the city will face a general fund deficit as soon as the 2019-20 fiscal year, which starts in a bit more than 16 months.
Quail Ridge Golf Course is a city asset, and we don’t object to the city spending money on the course when there’s good reason to believe it will pay off. But the course must not become a drain on the same property tax-enriched fund that pays for fire and police protection.
From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.