Are Port Orange residents subsidizing a Municipal Golf Course or a Country Club?


Concerns & Direction on Golf Course

Mayor & City Council Members,
At the October 28th City Council meeting, I brought forth the request that City Council clearly define the scope and mission of the Port Orange municipal golf course in the Cypress Head neighborhood.  Specifically, City Council needs to decide whether the Port Orange residents are subsidizing a Municipal Golf Course or a Country Club.  This distinction is important for a lot of reasons.  I have spoken to several Port Orange residents and there is some tolerance for subsidizing a municipal golf course but little or no tolerance for subsidizing a Country Club.
I do have to admit that I was surprised when I was met by blank stares from City Council as I presented this concept.  I would like to think City Council was evaluating this concept thoroughly or at least for the first time.  I was dismayed when Council voted to blindly spend $17,500.00 on a “Course Designer” in hopes that it would all work out.  This course designer will more likely recommend spending $1.5 million on upgrades and renovations.  The scope of the course designer’s work did not include a process to facilitate the plan and mission statement for a municipal golf course.
I have reviewed financial statements, City documents, web pages, spoken with Port Orange residents, contacted other local cities with municipal golf courses, and other efforts to see if the I could find any clear mission that Port Orange may have defined for the municipal golf course.  I have to say the results of these efforts have been both enlightening and disturbing to me.  I would like to outline some of these points.

  1. Large Monthly Subsidy.  I reviewed the Golf Course and City audits over the last eight years.  The results show that Port Orange has subsidized the golf course between $10,000 per month to around $25,000 per month depending upon the year.  In some years the losses were so great that “so called” bond and Golf Cart loan payments to the other City funds were waived because of lack of funds.  I added these back to arrive at the City subsidy numbers since these are real costs.  As you can see in the next paragraph, the hidden funding could be adding another $20,000 per month.
  2. No Bond Interest Ever Paid.  When we discuss the City financial subsidy for the Golf Course, we need to include a very large hidden subsidy.  That hidden subsidy is the unpaid interest on the Water and Sewer bonds.  The Water and Sewer fund loaned $4,229,976.17 to the Golf Fund in 1991 and 1992.  In the 23 to 24 years since then, the Golf Course has not paid one penny of interest.  During this same time period, the Water and Sewer fund was paying bonds at rates of 5% and greater.  I attached a schedule that shows the loan actually growing by over $1 million dollars over those years, and that was only using a 3.5% interest rate.  I incorporated the loan and payments from the schedule that Manager Kisela had presented to Council on July 29th.
  3. Water fee Increase. If City Council plans on adding another $1.5 million to the Water and Sewer loan borrowing in 2015, the Golf Course would need to make around $400,000 per year in principle and interest payments to pay back the correctly adjusted original loan and new loan even at the low rate of 1.5%.  I bring this up because these were hard dollars in interest and bond payments made by the Sewer and Water fund.  If you connect the dots, residents are being asked to increase their water rates with a chuck of this increase being used to provide hidden funding to the Golf Course.
  4. Called “Country Club”. At the December Golf Board meeting, Cypress Head was referred to as a “Country Club”.  Although this is just a term, it does speak volumes.  The public appearance is that the City is subsidizing a country club.
  5. Is this a Municipal Golf Course? There are three municipal golf courses in adjoining local communities.  These are Daytona Beach Golf Club, New Smyrna Beach Golf Club and Golf Club at Cypress Head, Inc.  Port Orange is standout in that the City name is not attached to the golf course.  Again, this speaks towards the mission of having a Country Club or a municipal golf course.
  6. High School Programs sent Outside of City.  There are two high schools in the Port Orange City limits, Atlantic High and Spruce Creek.  The golf program at Athletic High uses the Daytona Beach municipal course and Spruce Creek has historically used the public/private course a the Fly-in.  The youth of Port Orange are directed outside of Port Orange rather than have programs at the City municipal golf course.
  7. Restaurant. City Council members have extolled the prowess of the new “Chef” at the Port Orange golf club.  New Smyrna Beach has leased their restaurant to a private restaurateur and the Daytona Beach restaurant has been closed for several months.    The municipal golf course in the city that I previously lived in had no restaurant but you could by snacks, sandwiches and beverages.  That is probably more representative of a municipal golf course than the Country Clubs that were located in the same community.
  8. No Promotion as a Municipal Golf Course.  The Daytona Beach and New Smyrna City web pages prominently promote their municipal golf courses.  The term “municipal golf course” is never mentioned on either the Port Orange City web page or the Kemper Sports web page for the City municipal golf course.  There is not even a link to click on in the City web page to connect to the Cypress Head Golf web page.  There are no Golf programs listed in the Port Orange Parks and Recreation programs promoted on the City web page.  If Port Orange is not promoting the golf course as a “municipal” course, what does that state for the City mission for the Golf Club?  I felt un-informed since I lived in Port Orange for five or six years before I even knew that we had a municipal golf course.  Sadly, I think I was in the large majority rather than an un-informed minority.
  9. Good Citizen Proposal. At the December Golf Board meeting several Cypress Head residents presented a very good analysis and several good suggestions for improvement of the financial position of the Golf Course.  I knew they were working on this and did bring it up at the October 28th City Council meeting when I recommended that City Council schedule a workshop.  A point that was made in the presentation was “negative comments”.  I agree with this part of the presentation and put the blame squarely on City Council for this.  What I remember from the October 28th meeting was blank stares and a decision to spend $17,500 on a course designer with no real plan or mission.  I would appreciate it if someone could direct me to a current and appropriate mission statement for the Port Orange Municipal Golf Course.  I wonder if a mission statement does exist, if the actions by city council and actual golf course operations are following the mission statement.
  10. Easement for Access. I have some confusion about public access to the municipal golf course.  I am going to make an assumption that the Cypress Head Homeowners Association owns and maintains the streets that provide access the municipal golf course since it is located in the center of the neighborhood.  With that being the case, there must be some written and documented easement that Port Orange has with Cypress Head to gain access.  If someone can direct me on where to look, I would be glad to look for it.  I bring this up for a couple of reasons.  I would assume that the easement may have certain restrictions such as hours of operation and access.  Also, although there is a southern entrance into the neighborhood, golfers from southern communities such as New Smyrna and Edgewater are directly to drive around and use the northern entrance.
  11. Move to General Fund for Financing.  It just appears to me as an outside observer that it is inappropriate to have much of the Golf Course financing to be buried in other funds, like the Water and Sewer fund.  If this is a community facility and community benefit, the costs should be under the general fund or at least the Parks and Recreation portion of the general fund.
  12. Business and Project Plan before Expansion. I do agree with comments that the Mayor has made about delaying the expenditures for expansion until the end of the current management agreement with Kemper Sports Management.  We have seen bits and pieces and selective numbers here and there, but no comprehensive plan the fits with the City Mission for a municipal golf course.  If we were running a Country Club it would be easy to assess members with a onetime fee or increase in annual membership fees.  Right now, our solution appears to be a 30% increase in Water rates to all residents.

I would request that City Council take the following actions starting at their December 2, 2014 regular City Council meeting.

  1. Change the Name of the Golf Course.  I recommend that City Council either pass a resolution at this meeting to change the name of the Golf Course to the Port Orange Municipal Golf Course or a similar name that incorporates the name of Port Orange just as the other two municipal golf courses in our area have done.  This may be symbolic, but it is an important symbolic step in defining the mission of the golf course for Port Orange residents.
  2. Update Web Pages.  Request that City Staff along with Kemper Sports Management to update the web pages to promote the Golf Course as a City “Municipal” golf course.  After all, we are not running a Country Club here.
  3. Mission Statement.  Direct staff to locate the old mission statement, if one exists.  If no mission statement exists, the City Council needs to begin the process of creating a mission statement that clearly defines the mission of running a City Municipal Golf Course.
  4. Loan or Bond Balance.  Direct Finance staff to recalculate the Golf Course loan from the Water and Sewer fund to properly account for bond interest payments made of the last 24 years.  The fund balances should also be adjusted on the Certified Audit reports for the 2014 fiscal year.  If there are any other hidden subsidy sources, they should also be flushed out and fully disclosed for the financial reports.
  5. Easement for Access.  Direct staff to locate the written easement through the private homeowners association.  This may be an easy process or difficult process.  The City and residents need to know what the access rights and restrictions are.  There may be no restrictions, or there may be restrictions that limit the hours of access or limit the hours of operation for the restaurant.
  6. Golf Course Workshop.  The Cypress Head residents have put a lot of work into their proposals.  The full City Council needs to hear and consider their ideas.
  7. Business and Project Plan.  Stop all expenditures towards the proposed expansion and renovation until staff or citizen volunteers can prepare a comprehensive business and project plan for the expansion and renovation of the “Municipal” golf course.  If the City is going to spend money on a project, we need to be informed and have a detailed plan with measurable results.

Mark Schaefer
3606 Donna Street
Port Orange, Florida 32129


8 thoughts on “Are Port Orange residents subsidizing a Municipal Golf Course or a Country Club?

  • November 26, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Wow ! It’s obvious the city will never dig out of this hole.
    They are barely paying the interest charges. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist nor a semi prudent City Council to see its time to get out.

  • November 27, 2014 at 8:05 am

    How is it that citizens/taxpayers like Mark Schaefer and Tom Melocal can bring forth the facts on the golf course debacle so well, proving that it is a losing endeavor for the city and yet the City Councilmen can’t wrap their brains around the facts that are so obvious to the average citizen???
    First and foremost any monies should be spent on fixing the flooding problem which effects many more taxpayers than the people living in Cypress Head.

  • November 29, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Access to the Golf Course is over very open well marked Public streets. You can come and go 24 hours a day. The driving range is open til 9 or 10 at night.There is no access to the golf course from within the “Gated” communities. Not even for residents. They have to go to Cypress Springs Pkwy like everyone. The gated areas have private roads that they paid for and maintain. The main road into the course does have some lovely landscaping but it is paid for by the residents not the city. Perhaps Ted, Tom and Mark should actually come see this place. The golf clubhouse does not resemble a country club in any way. And the residents in no way influence or have any say in the hours operation or rates of the course. Please do come and see. It doesn’t sound like you have done more than drive down Airport Rd.
    The Men’s Golf Assoc has almost 200 members. 135 or 68% don’t live in Cypress Head. Same is true of the Women’s group. Someone else obviously plays the course.
    Finances of this operation do need scrutiny and wise use of funds. But when I look at the Parks and Rec list of sites I see many that also require maintenance, upkeep and repair and we don’t expect them to “pay for themselves”. Not all Port Orange residents use the Boat Ramp or the Fishing pier. How much did and does that cost. What about playgrounds and skateboard parks for those with no kids. Or the Gym? Or Baseball and soccer fields.
    I think the comments of Ted, Mark and Tom are a bit vitriolic as regards golfers in general and Cypress Head residents whether they golf or not. And a lot of them don’t golf.

    • November 30, 2014 at 8:39 am

      ” Finances of this operation do need scrutiny and wise use of funds ”
      So when is the scrutiny and wise use of funds supposed to start, and isn’t that what Ted and Tom and Mark are pushing for? . Funny thing how the hacks and hanger-ons always make a single solidary statement similar to the one in quotes right before they insist that taxpayer money keep on being spent on their pet projects ?

    • November 30, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      to IC Green. Should we keep the golf course going for the public or the residents of Cypress Hills? Seems like both the public and Cypress Hills residents are not doing their fair share of using the golf course and restaurant. Or perhaps the course and restaurant has been mismanaged.
      The boat ramp and city parks are being maintained for the purpose of supporting real estate values in any special community. The public parks are well used, but the golf course and restaurant are not well used. To all the people in Cypress Head who want to keep their real estate value up, I say to them, verily, start golfing, eating and drinking at the restaurant.
      There are no public taxes supporting my real estate value but Cypress Head residents have that special advantage. Cypress Head has a golf course which probably got a commitment from Mayor Green to the developer. Correct me if I am wrong. Just a guess. But Green tells Crane lakes to see their developer about getting a traffic light for safety reasons. This old town where Green was born has been run by Mayor Green, developers, construction companies, bank loans, real estate people and consultants. Such a combination has brought us to where we are today. Supporters of the old city councils tell us to be polite and courteous when we ask for something.
      She was correct. It was proven when a promise was taken back from Bonks’s Landing people because the mayor did not like their “attitude”.
      This is much more about a golfing issue. Special consideration has been the norm in this old town. Some no longer like. Some did and still like it. — hank

      • November 30, 2014 at 7:04 pm

        correction: The boat ramp and city parks are NOT being maintained for the purpose of supporting real estate values in any special community.

    • November 30, 2014 at 7:43 pm

      Great PR and informational piece Mr Green.
      But it did not address the issue at hand. Should it stay or should it go ? Is it a loser ? Is it properly marketed and managed ?


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