A look at Brigantine’s golf course – its history and possible future. By TONY PULLELLA. Brigantine Councilman at Large.
The Brigantine golf course was established around 1927 and was owned privately until 2002. Under private ownership, the golf course paid real estate taxes that contributed to the city budget. The annual tax bill for the golf course prior to being purchased by the city was approximately $77,000. Because the city owns the golf course it does not pay real estate taxes. Therefore, that revenue to support the city budget ceased in 2002.
The loss of tax revenue from the golf course, based on a 5 percent annual increase of real estate taxes, amounts to $1,150,000 of unrealized tax collection. That being said, having a golf course on our island is a valuable asset. But like any asset, the golf course requires maintenance in order to remain an asset to the community.
Why is the city in the golf course business?
In 2002 many taxpayers at city council meetings expressed their disapproval of purchasing the golf course. Nevertheless, city council voted unanimously to purchase it. Since the purchase in 2002, many things have changed. The number of courses in our immediate area has tripled. We are in a bad economy and golf enthusiasm is on a decline. Brigantine’s golf revenues have been on a decline since 2007 and the course has depleted its fund balance.
What is the golf course’s condition and what are its financial needs today?
In 2013 the city retained Stephen Kay, a golf course architect, to prepare a master plan and evaluate the condition and needed improvements of our Brigantine course.
Three areas of maintenance were recommended as a result of the study: 1. a new irrigation system, 2. addressing the poor drainage conditions, and 3. general aesthetic/appearance changes to the course.
The estimated cost of these essential areas of maintenance is $2,200,000 if performed by a non-prevailing-wage contractor. (Please note that if the city were to bond and make the improvements, they would be subject to prevailing wage contractors at an increased cost of approximately $3,400,000).
What financial impact does the golf course have on our 2014 budget?
Brigantine’s 2014 proposed budget is on the city website, www.bb-nj.com. I encourage everyone to review the budget, specifically as it pertains to the golf course utility. You will see that the golf course needs $765,256 to support the utility. This money will need to be paid out of the city budget, which means that the average taxpayer will be subsidizing the golf course this year by approximately $87, based on an average assessment of $366,000.
What are the proposed options?
I, as a member of the golf steering committee, along with Councilman Simpson, city manager Jennifer Blumenthal and city solicitor Fred Scerni, have discussed ways to eliminate or at least minimize taxpayers having to subsidize the golf course. After nearly a year of meeting, two ideas have been proposed. My idea is to lease the golf course long-term over 20-24 years to a professional golf company. They would be required to make capital improvements to the golf course as part of the RFP process (request for proposals) and additionally pay a rental fee to the city. Councilman Simpson’s proposal is for the city to make the improvements by bonding for the money (adding additional debt to the city). In both scenarios, the city continues to own the golf course.
What are the positive impacts of using a qualified professional golf firm?
The golfers’ experience will be elevated and enhanced. The course will become competitive and desirable in the marketplace. There will be a positive impact on the property values of the surrounding homes.
The city of Brigantine received Green Acres and Open Space funding at the time of purchasing the golf course. By accepting those funds, the golf course is prohibited from being developed. It will always remain open space. Under my proposed long-term lease contract, the successful bidder to the RFP would bear the financial burden to make the necessary capital improvements.
At City Council’s Wednesday, April 2 meeting, I plan to make a motion for council to approve the RFP process.
This Saturday, March 29, the Brigantine Democratic Club is conducting our meeting at the Community Center at 10 a.m. After our business meeting, at 11 a.m., our five council members will be available for any questions on this matter.
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