Hudson -- Park board members say they don't like subsidizing the golf course, but they may have no choice.
At their Aug. 19 meeting, park board members said they were against funding the golf course from park funds. Council is within its rights to transfer money from the park fund to Ellsworth Meadows, said the city.
In 2004, when residents agreed to increase income tax from 1 percent to 2 percent. The additional funds were specifically divided with 13.5 percent going to the Hudson public school district for building improvements or community centers, 9 percent toward EMS, 15 percent toward fire, 15 percent toward parks and the remaining 47.5 percent toward sewer and infrastructure.
Park Board Chairman Dave Mansky said when Issue 3 passed, certain park board members were against changing funding from levies to taxes because they feared losing the board's independence.
"They [park board] were told park money would not be used for funding the golf course," Mansky said. "Several years later and several thousands of dollars later that is what is happening."
Ellsworth Meadows golf course was purchased in 1997 with the recommendation and assistance of the Park Board and was intended to be "an integral part of the city's park system," said Jody Roberts, communications manager.
The city transferred $100,000 each year from the park fund to the golf course from 2009 though 2013, Roberts said.
"In 2009, City Council approved a transfer of $100,000 to Ellsworth and the decision has been reaffirmed by City Council each year since," Roberts said. "There is nothing in the ballot language that prohibits parks money being used for the golf course."
Roberts said additionally, the city has transferred money, off and on, from the general fund to the golf course since 1997.
Financial records show general fund transfers of $135,000 in 2011; $75,000 in 2012; and $80,000 budgeted in 2013 to the golf course fund.
Park Board member Rob Swedenborg said his understanding of Issue 3 after talking to others was that Ellsworth Golf Course would not be included in the income tax funding. An edition of the city's Our Town newsletter in 2004 stated that money from income tax would not support Ellsworth Golf Course, he said.
"When is a promise not a promise?" Swedenborg said.
"All municipal golf courses are losing money," Swedenborg said. "They can only survive on subsidies. The city has to decide how much to subsidize. I understand the city's position, but I don't want to see us become fully responsible."
The purchase for the golf course was made by issuing bonds for "acquiring real estate for park purposes," Roberts said.
Ellsworth Meadows is an "active use park" in the Parks Master Plan and considered an integral part of the park system, she said.
Two debts are shown in the budget for the golf course. The first is for renovations from 1998 with a principal of $690,000 for 20 years. $180,000 was still owed at the end of 2012 and payments average around $30,000 per year with the payoff in 2019, according to the city.
The second debit is for expansion from 2004 with a principal of $1.645 million for 20 years. $1.1 million is still owed at the end of 2012 and payments average around $107,000 per year with payoff in 2023, according to the city.
"We expanded the course onto about 60 acres we already owned, renovated the course, spread out the holes to make them safer and added a driving range as a revenue source among other improvement," Roberts said.
Swedenborg said the park board believed it would only subsidize the golf course for a limited time period to help pay off the debt but worries the money would go toward expenses and improvements instead.
"We don't want to see it expanded and bear the full burden of subsidizing the golf course," Swedenborg said.
The park board has known about the transfers since 2009, Roberts said.
"The park fund has a healthy balance, and transferring these funds has not impacted the parks' ability to undertake and fund the many projects in its Master Plan," Roberts said.
Council and the city are subsidizing the golf course, Swedenborg said.
"If this is put on the shoulders of the park board, it prevents us from fulfilling the mission and maintaining our properties and going forward with our projects like connectors in the city," Swedenborg said.
Park board members cite potential problems with merger
Park board member Doug Kuhn said if there is a merger between the park board and golf course the amount of subsidy will go up, especially since there is no money for a new club house.
"I see a continued problem that concerns me," Kuhn said.
Council member and liaison to the park board Keith Smith said he doesn't think Council wants the parks to subsidize the golf course.
The city solicitor said the city can legally transfer money to the golf course, Smith said. The city claims the golf course is included in the park system.
Park board members also had issue with how the transfer of funds is recorded in the budget.
Swedenborg said the city received a non-compliance from a recent state audit for how it was recording the transfer of funds from the park board to the golf course. The funds do not show up on the park board's debit transfer for 2013 like they did in the past.
Mansky said he was concerned that there is no line transaction on the books now.
Roberts said the auditor had an issue with how the money was entered into the accounts. He had no problem with the money being used for the golf course.
"The auditor wants the city to put the money directly into Ellsworth [account] rather than putting it in the park account first, then transferring it to Ellsworth," Roberts said.
The park board doesn't have the authority to decide how to appropriate funds, Mansky said. It can only make recommendations to Council, who make the final decision on funding.
"It's their money," Mansky said. "We can make recommendations. It's a $1 million subsidy when all is said and done. They have done what they wanted."
Facebook: Laura Freeman, Record Publishing