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Sarasota Thursday, May. 6, 2010 7 years ago

Board warns of Bobby Jones shortfall

by: Robin Roy City Editor

Some members of the city-owned Bobby Jones Golf Course Advisory Board are warning of a dire financial situation that threatens the stability of the course, but city officials say those warnings are off base.
Board member George Spector predicts Bobby Jones will lose between $500,000 and $600,000 this year.

A combination of cold temperatures during tourist season and a slow economy kept golfers away from most area courses.

But Spector said it’s a mistake for the city to bank on better weather improving economic conditions.

“If our business model is based on good weather, then it’s a bad model,” he said.

City Manager Bob Bartolotta doesn’t believe the loss will be as bad as Spector predicts.

“I think we have very good accounting,” he said. “We have two CPAs (analyzing the numbers). I’m not going to second-guess them.”

It cost the city $3.3 million to run Bobby Jones this fiscal year. Bartolotta said the course is completely self-sustaining — every dollar it takes to operate the course is generated by the course.

During lucrative years, Bobby Jones builds up its reserve fund to pay for the lean years, such as the current one.

According to Chris Lyons, the city’s finance director, there is $750,000 in the reserve fund. If Spector’s loss prediction comes true, that could nearly drain that fund.

“By 2012, there will be no balance left,” said Spector.

Spector said the reserve fund money was intended to build a new clubhouse.

But Bartolotta said there is no requirement that the money be used for the clubhouse or any other capital improvement.

“The first priority is operations,” he said. “You’d be crazy to tap the fund for construction when there’s not enough money for operations.”

Spector said in this economy it’s difficult to support the city running a golf course. He advocates the city sell the golf course.

“This is not an essential service,” Spector said. “When it’s cutting essential services, the government should not be in the business of entertainment.”

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].

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