Paid for by the Brigantine Taxpayers Association: The City of Brigantine owns and oversees the management of an 18-hole golf course and clubhouse (The Links).
Why should this fact matter to taxpayers? Is the status quo the best way to face current and future challenges to this municipally-owned business?
This is a community issue. Taxpayers need to know how we got to where we are and who’s paying the bills.
The City bought this property in 2002 from a private company for $4.3 million using borrowed money and an $800,000 grant from the State’s Green Acres Fund. In return, it agreed to keep the area free from development for perpetuity. The purchase debt will be paid off in 2018.
The City promised taxpayers that the golf-course would be a self-sustaining utility (won’t cost them a penny). That promise has been broken. Since 2014, items totaling $2 million have been included in the municipal budgets to keep the course operational. These subsidies come from our property taxes.
The City’s 2016 figures show net course revenue ($795,000) exceeding attributed expenses by $9,000.
How was this “profit”achieved?
The utility’s annual debt-service charges of $400,000 are moved from its expense column to the taxpayers in the municipal budgets.
In 2017, City Council moved other categories from the utility’s expense column to the taxpayers in the municipal budget .
All of these changes have been made to enable the administration to continue to paint a “positive, rosy” picture of course finances to the public.
Are these changes misleading? Yes. Are they transparent? No.
Brigantine’s golf course revenues have fallen steadily since 2008, from a high in 2007 of $2.1 million.
Nationally, the number of golfers continues to decline. Brigantine’s course is not an exception to this fact.
Golf courses need a lot of maintenance and improvements to be competitive. Past studies of this course indicate much needs to be done in these 2 areas. The cost is high. How could and should it be paid?
Experimental offerings are being tried by public –access courses across the country to attract new players and stay afloat financially. It’s a way to adapt to change. With golf courses, as with business in general, the status quo means falling behind, reduced or no profit, survival or not.
We don’t believe that the status quo is the answer for the future.
The taxpayers need to be involved in proposing, analyzing and determining the future use of this property within the Green Acres limits. What are other choices?
We’ve come from a government business promised to be self-sustaining to one which is now dependent on taxpayer subsidies. It is likely these subsidies would continue even after the purchase debt is paid off. Times have changed, not to the advantage of municipal golf courses. We must adapt. Should government be in the golf- course business?
Let’s discuss, clarify and decide, in public, on the policy for this City-owned enterprise.
Paid for by the Brigantine Taxpayers Association