City golf course chipping out of the rough


Photo by John Bryant
Payment to City
Elizabethton Municipal Golf Course officials present their first payment under a restructured debt plan to city of Elizabethton Finance Director Brad Moffitt on Monday. Pictured from left, EMGC board members Dean Batchelder, Sam Barker, Moffitt, Col. Ret. Shannon Johnson and course General Manager Steve Howard.
By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  Board members of the Elizabethton Municipal Golf Course (EMGC) made the first payment under a restructured debt service plan with the Elizabethton city government on Monday.
  Under the revised debt structure the board will pay roughly $60,000 annually through the 2010 budget year. The course will make a final lump sum payment of $56,294 in 2011. The board paid only debt interest of $9,768 to the city last year.
  "They basically lowered our payments a little bit," said Steve Howard, general manager of the golf course. "By them doing that it will enable us to balance our budget."
  Elizabethton City Council approved in November a plan to revise the course's debt payment schedule to the city government. Previously the debt service schedule had the EMGC paying $99,000 this year and $96,000 next year before the payment dropped to $45,000 in the 2006-2007 fiscal year.
  The debt service overhaul came after the board's inability to pay its debt service bond payment in December 2003 forced the city to pay $87,826 from the city government fund balance to cover the payment.
  City Finance Director Brad Moffitt said Monday that the city was forced to restructure their course's debt to put them in compliance with federal accounting requirements. The course exists as a city enterprise fund, which means it must be self-supporting financially.
  "It is a good deal for the city and a good deal for the golf course, too," said Moffitt. "The taxpayers won't be losing any money; they'll be earning some in interest."
  The golf course is governed by a board of directors and oversees its own financial operations. Moffitt said he was very much encouraged by the adjusted financial path of the golf course board of directors.
  "We are very pleased they were able to make it and we look forward to making payments toward this debt in the future," said Moffitt.
  The city took ownership of the course after creating the Public Benefit Corporation in 1988. The golf course shares the same health insurance provider with the city. The course board reimburses the city annually for insurance premiums.
  The course's financial records indicate expenses increased 11 percent over the past four years while revenues decreased 1 percent over the same time period. The report also found the course's net assets had decreased by $271,000, or 38 percent, over the past four years.
  Howard said the organization accrued debt during a major renovation project in 1992 and 1993 when the course temporarily closed.
  The golf course cut the number of full-time employees from nine to six last year. The course had laid off one salaried employee in August 2003, cut another full-time employee to part-time and did not fill a position vacated by another employee who resigned to take a new job.
  The golf course derives 40 percent of its budget from membership dues and fees. Greens and cart fees paid by non-members comprise additional revenues brought in each year.
  "The golf course is still operating at no cost to the taxpayers," Howard said.
  Moffitt also said he suggested the board open the course up for additional tournaments and actively solicit business to raise additional funding for the course. He said the board's work to right the golf course's financial situation boded well for its future as a sporting and economic draw.
  "If it continues making the progress it has made in the past year it will be a great thing for the city of Elizabethton," he said.