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4/24/2013 6:00:00 AM
Kingman golf course: Tourism asset, or budget liability?
The city-owned Cerbat Cliffs Golf Course has plenty of critics, but supporters say it helps drive tourism dollars to Kingman.RODNEY HAAS/Miner
The city-owned Cerbat Cliffs Golf Course has plenty of critics, but supporters say it helps drive tourism dollars to Kingman.

Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - Many residents who are concerned about the city's budget woes wonder why Cerbat Cliffs Golf Course can't be sold to a private party.

After all, the course takes more than $1.3 million out of the general fund each year, money that could be used to pay for essential services.

Instead, the money pays for salaries and supplies, water and sewer and phones and all the other items that go into maintaining and running a golf course.

While the City Council has not exhibited any appetite whatsoever to divest itself of Cerbat Cliffs, there are compelling reasons, both legal and practical, why they can't just put up a for sale sign.

Supporters, furthermore, say the golf course brings visitors and their money to Kingman.

As Mayor John Salem has said a few times over the past few months, voters approved funding the golf course and it will be voters who decide what to do with it in the face of a looming budget crisis.

"It's not our golf course to sell," said Salem.

Voters would have the final say if the City Council did want to sell the 40-year-old course.

Political subdivisions cannot sell government assets with an appraised value of $500,000 or more without a public vote.

There is a key fact in this debate that would make selling Cerbat Cliffs a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

While some perceive the golf course as a luxury that caters to a minority of residents at the expense of all residents, proponents claim the course contributes to the Kingman economy whenever tournaments are held.

People buy gas and food, and sometimes they rent motel rooms. The Miner was unable to find specific information on the economic benefit, such as motel room taxes golfers contributed to city coffers, or where they eat and what they spend.

In fiscal year 2011-2012, roughly 30,500 18-hole rounds were played at Cerbat Cliffs. This year, an estimated 32,400 rounds will have been played when the fiscal year ends June 30. About 34,500 rounds are expected to be played next year.

Tangible improvements have been made. Proposed for the next fiscal year is the purchase and installation of a $20,000 awning for the pro shop and improvements to the pro shop for another $18,000. About $8,000 could be set aside to core the greens and curb the cart paths. The cart lease of $45,000 also is in the budget.

The city has only two bond obligations. One is the 2005 construction of the Airway Railroad Underpass Project.

The city's share of the $10 million project is $2.8 million, which is being paid with a 15-year excise tax revenue bond. The project will be paid off in 2020.

The second obligation is the expansion of Cerbat Cliffs Golf Course from nine holes to 18 that took place in the mid-1990s, according to City Manager Jack Kramer.

Only two payments remain before the expansion is paid for. The next payment for $445,500 is due in June. The final payment of $645,750 is due June 2014.

Here's a snapshot of the golf course's proposed general fund budget for fiscal year 2013-2014 beginning July 1:

Salaries (including part time and temporary help, overtime pay, certification pay, other personnel expenses such as matching workers compensation insurance and the state retirement fund, and benefit contributions): $459,552.

Supplies and Services (including inmate labor, golf course management, sewer services, sand, seed, sprinklers, repair and maintenance, telephone, janitorial and first aid supplies, utilities, fuel, printing, dues, office supplies, travel etc,): $752,635.

Salaries could increase by about $35,000 over last year's figures, despite vacant superintendent and groundskeeper positions that will remain unfilled. The bulk of the increase is due to the number of temporary workers the course will hire.

Supplies and Services will increase moderately by about $11,000 if the City Council ultimately approves the golf course budget.

The final budget hearing will be held in May. A specific date has not been announced.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Article comment by: anonymous anonymous

Funny they just sold a building for a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars and keep a golf course which is a money pit, guess the selling it might be ok but who would buy a losing business that needs more money put in than comes out!

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Article comment by: Justa Thought

If this place really is a money maker like they want us to think it should be very easy to sell and let those that use it pay for it. But we all know the good ol boys that run the city would reather just add more taxs on us that run the city like a REAL Business !!

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Article comment by: just a fact

If the golf course is sold why would that affect tourism, tournament attendance, or as an attraction for business to move to Kingman? If it is sold, someone else has those expenses and Kingman still gets the benefit.
As to the Airway underpass, better known as Monica's mess, it certainly makes going across the tracks more difficult than it was to cross at Louise.
Louise was not as dangerous as the one downtown. Once they put the dividers up, it was impossible to cross the tracks on Louise without breaking through the barriers when they were down.

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Article comment by: vock canyon

I can't seem to see how much the property brings in on green fee's and cart rentals? It should at least cover the yearly expenses of $1.2 million, does it?

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Article comment by: citizen citizen

Nice job breaking down the expense side of the equation! What about the revenue side - 30500 rounds of 18 X estimated average of $45/round = $1,372,500. That's just rounds of 18! Paint the whole picture unless your one that wants to see a private company purchase our course. The rates will more than likely triple with private ownership. Citizens of Kingman can't support a privately owned course.

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Article comment by: john smith

I find it incredible that even after lucrative contract the city gave Mr. Pitts the city is still eager to continue to throw more money at it. 20 k for and awning? 45k for golf cart lease? It is basic economics! You cant spend more than you make. In researching golf courses in the tri state area I have yet to find another Golf Pro (or so they claim) with such a contract or even close to the amount being paid. Maybe the city should hire an actual pro and pay him a industry comparable salary and run the course as another city enity. The city would be money ahead! We all know golf is an expensive sport and many golf facilities are struggling. But every time we turn the corner we throwing more money at it to improve its appearance while helping its pro make more money with no cost to him.

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Article comment by: The Fox Hound

This Republican run city likes to privatize our prisons but wants to own our golf course. I wouldn't have a problem with that if the golf course was making money. Here is a novel idea maybe none of these geniuses have thought of. Raise the price of a round of golf. You know damn well if they sold the course the price of golf in Kingman will go up. Why not raise the price now. 30500 times 5.00 might just make it profitable

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Article comment by: Let the people decide

Are we to assume that if the golf course were sold that it might be turned into a housing development? If the course is sold and continues to be operated as a golf course why would that make any difference as to its profitability to the Kingman economy? Like all government ventures into such projects, it has little motive to make a profit as private business does. Just a few calls to investors would tell whether there is any interest. Let's get this on the ballot.

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