National Trail Parks and Recreation District board members and local golfers criticized the city and county commissions for their lack of support for the financially-strapped parks district.
The district also missed the deadline for requesting county funding this year, according to officials.
The park board had been expected to vote on a plan to close Snyder Park Golf Course on Monday night but opted to delay a decision to consider another option: close one of the two Reid Park courses and reduce additional expenses.
The board will meet in special session from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Jan. 25 at the NTPRD building, 1301 Mitchell Blvd. Members will discuss the future of the golf operation, and a vote is expected. The decision must be made in order to prepare the golf courses for the upcoming season, said NTPRD director Leann Castillo.
“The timeline is for the health of our golf courses,” Castillo said.
The board will examine options, including closing Snyder Park or Reid Park, as well as implementing Superintendent Chris Flick’s ideas for cost reductions for golf, in order to balance its budget. Flick believes costs can be reduced by using fewer seasonal employees at Snyder Park and using less expensive fertilizers, among others.
The district projects a $356,000 shortfall. NTPRD will have approximately $3.8 million in income and approximately $4.16 million in expenses. The district will receive approximately $965,000 in levy funds next year, but the money can be used only for green spaces, not revenue-generating operations like the golf courses or the Splash Zone Aquatic Center.
Park officials say closing the south course at Reid Park may save approximately $227,000. The closing of the Snyder Park golf course would save an estimated $357,500.
Board member Jack Simonton expressed disappointment with the city and county commissions.
He believes the city commission should have supported the district’s three-year plan for making golf self-sustaining at least one more year. The plan was enacted last year and gave the district the option to evaluate the plan after each year.
The district accomplished two goals — improving course conditions and reducing salaries; however, the golf operation saw approximately 44,000 rounds, 16,000 less than its goal of 60,000.
Last month, the city voted to reduce NTPRD’s subsidy from $1.1 million to $950,000. City commissioners have told the district it would not bail them out if another shortfall were to occur.
“It was a good plan and it was executed well,” Simonton said. “I very strongly think we deserved a second year somehow.”
Simonton also has issues with the county commission for its lack of funding. The county gave the district $330,510 in 2003, but the subsidy has been reduced every year since then. In 2013, the county gave $30,341 and is expected to give $25,00 this year.
“I have an even greater disappointment with our county commissioners, who just think we’re along for the ride, I guess,” Simonton said.
Mike Bostick, the chairman of the Springfield Golf Association, asked why the district did not follow through with its three-year plan.
Board president Maureen Massaro said the district attempted to get the extra year. City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill, the liaison to NTPRD, asked city commission for the additional funding but did not receive support from other commissioners.
According to Dec. 11 county commission minutes, NTPRD did not request funding from the county for this year, leading County Administrator Nathan Kennedy to request the same amount as last year. Commissioner David Hartley asked for $190,000, while Commissioner John Detrick believed the money should be funneled into the combined dispatch center instead. Detrick understood the need but wanted to put the money where the future was, according to the minutes.
NTPRD Director Leann Castillo said she was asked to provide a letter to the county requesting funding but was unaware of the deadline.
“We requested it, but it was too late,” Castillo said. “Next year, we will be putting it in much earlier.”
Local golfer Jim McKenzie, a county resident, asked the board why the county does not support NTPRD the way it had.
“There are a lot of county people who use the parks system from the county,” McKenzie said.
Massaro said the district has requested a return to the subsidy the county once gave them, but every year “that request has been turned down.”
National Trail’s golf operations have lost approximately $1.08 million over the last three years, including about $493,000 last year.
Snyder Park’s course lost approximately $262,000 last year, while the courses at Reid Park lost $231,000. Golf rounds are down approximately 23,000 since 2009.
Local golfer Bill Bennett said management, including NTPRD and the city commission, was to blame for the lack of rounds being played at the city-owned golf courses.
“You can’t lose 57 percent of your business and blame it on the economy,” Bennett said.
Local golfer Bill Beach believes Reid Park South should be closed instead of Snyder Park, allowing for courses on each side of town.
“Snyder Park is a unique facility,” Beach said. “It’s one that can be walked by juniors and seniors. It’s within reach of inner-city individuals, and it’s also within reach of western Clark County. If Snyder Park were to be closed, they’d have to go all the way to the eastern part of Clark County to play golf at a city course.”
Simonton also said he’s in favor of raising golf fees.
“If we don’t do it now or next year, we’ll be talking about closing another golf course in the very near future,” Simonton said.
Board member Mike Calabrese supported Simonton’s proposal for closing the south course at Reid Park, as well as increasing fees.
“We don’t want to do it, but are you not going to play because it costs $1 more?” Calabrese said.
Sticking with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has reported on NTPRD’s three-year plan to make golf self-sustaining since it was announced in 2011.
By the numbers
$356,000: The National Trail Parks and Recreation District’s estimated shortfall for 2014.
$357,700: NTPRD’s savings if Snyder Park Golf Course were to close.
$227,000: NTPRD’s savings if Reid Park South Golf Course were to close.