The golf course is a stand-alone business activity within the Choctaw Utilities Authority’s purview. In other words, it is a fee-for-service activity. The goal is for the golf course to stand on its own with no monetary assistance. However, when the City spent the $1.245M and bought the golf course in late 2016 - and the 80 acres it sits on – it also bought the problems that were causing the course to fail as a business. Some money had to be transferred to make it viable and get it out of the red on the balance sheet. It is against the law to run an activity in the red, so the City had to transfer money from the General Fund to keep out of trouble. The following budget year 2017-18, even considering the poor condition the course was in, the city floated $250K from General Taxes to help. In 2018-19 receipts were better and the City transferred a lesser amount of $185K to help the course. This year $175K was budgeted, but it may not need that much. Given that the facility will become self-sustaining (the goal is to make that a reality in the next five years or so), shutting it down will save the taxpayer exactly zero dollars.
The money actually spent on the golf course that is taxpayer-fronted is $435K, with a budgeted-but-not-yet-spent $175K for this 2019-20 fiscal year. In theory half a road could have been paved with that money, but the long-term benefit to the community justifies the investment made to date.
Another benefit the general public does not think about is the long-term: The City now owns 80 acres of prime real estate. We cannot sell the land to anyone other than the previous owners for ten years, per the purchase contract language; once that time has passed, the City will be just paying down the note and watching the value rise. If the City had not stepped in, this land would have been another housing development on some prime real estate. As it stands now, when we reach year 2026 (ten years after the purchase date) we as the owners have unlimited options for this land. If we no longer want the golf course, we can build a conference center, a recreation area, or something like “Top-Golf.” Or, we can even keep nine holes and make a retreat hotel or the like. There is significant future benefit to the City in the long run and it is short-sighted to focus on the now, debating whether the transferred money could have been used for a section of road. Council agreed to accept the risks of owning the 80 acres over repaving a one-mile stretch of blacktop, which is a drop in the bucket of the roads problem.
The City made a good deal, as the golf course is both a solid investment in real estate and a place where the City’s golfers and those from all the surrounding areas go to enjoy some leisure time and good food.