By ADAM SWIFT
PEABODY — Less than stellar returns over the past year have some City Councilors raising concerns about the future of the city-owned and operated golf course.
The Meadow at Peabody Golf Course operates as an enterprise account, with the money it generates expected to cover expenses. But due to bad weather, receipts for the current year are down, according to Mary Martin, the city auditor
Thursday night, the council approved the proposed $1,543,500 enterprise budget for Fiscal Year 2018, but voiced their concerns about a potential $111,000 shortfall in the current year’s budget.
Fiscal Year 2016, sales at the course were $1,507,857. With less than a month left in the current fiscal year, estimated sales should come in just over $1,380,000, Martins said.
“That is approximately $117,000 under what was anticipated,” said Martins. “The decrease in sales is due to a colder fall and winter and a rainy spring.”
There were 33,500 rounds of golf played in Fiscal Year 2016. Martins said she expects the number for the current fiscal year to be around 29,000.
“These numbers concern me,” said City Council President Joel Saslaw. “If we are at the mercy of the weather gods to go into the red, how are we going to pay a deficit?”
The current fiscal year’s deficit will be paid with free cash from the enterprise fund, but any future deficits would have to be absorbed through the city’s property taxes.
Councilor-at-Large Tom Gould noted that the nearly $480,000 per year debt payments for the course will come off the books in 2020.
But Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz said running a golf course that made a minimal profit in the best of years may not be in the best interest of the city.
“We have talked at length about how to increase revenue and I do not really feel like we have gotten a response from management,” said Sinewitz. “Losing $111,000 a year is not sustainable.”
The ward councilor said that he has talked about going to a membership model at the course in the past.
“There’s nothing you can do about it now,” said Sinewitz. “If this is not sustainable, we may have to look at privatizing. I know people don’t want to talk about that, but other communities have done that, and some of these companies guarantee hundreds of thousands in revenue. Wouldn’t that be great right now?”
Ward 2 Councilor Peter McGinn said earlier this year, golf course management did respond to some questions about how to increase revenue. He said the council’s ad hoc committee on the golf course will address the issues at a future meeting.
“We ought to have a plan of action,” said Councilor-at-Large David Gravel. “We need to be looking into next year and at how to offset the loss.”