The ballroom at Whitby Castle was the scene of lively conversation last Wednesday night. At the table were members of the Rye Golf Commission and City Council, along with City Manager Scott Pickup.
By Robin Jovanovich
The ballroom at Whitby Castle was the scene of lively conversation last Wednesday night. At the table were members of the Rye Golf Commission and City Council, along with City Manager Scott Pickup. They were there to air — and begin to iron out — any concerns and differences of opinion before the 2013 budget workshops begin in earnest later this summer. Rye Golf Club members of all ages were all ears and many came to the podium to voice their opinions about the club’s operation.
Club Manager Scott Yandrasevich began the meeting by reading a multi-page report, listing club costs and membership. “The end result is to break even,” he said. While revenues are “trending up” and overall expenses are down $350,000 year-to-date, Yandrasevich said the Commission projects a $277,000 loss for 2012 and the need to use fund balance for the third year in a row to balance the budget.
This year, there are 1,370 full-time members, down 6% from 2011. Nationwide, golf club membership has declined by 10%, according to Yandrasevich.
On a bright note, Yandrasevich said, “Everything is in line for a good year. Catering revenue for Whitby is $450,000, and the Sunday buffet and barbecue have been big hits with members.”
But operating a self-sustaining enterprise fund has its challenges, said the longtime manager. “The bond taken out to repair the pool and buildings continues until 2018. And before we open our doors each year, our obligations to the City of Rye are $2,189,000.” Yandrasevich went on to ask, “If we can get cheaper garbage collection from an outside source, rather then the City, shouldn’t we be able to?”
The joint meeting at Whitby was not the first time the Commission has told the Council that the City’s operational restrictions make it difficult for the club to break even.
Yandrasevich did not have the 2011 year-end numbers available, but he reported that the deficit was close to $300,000.
Commission member Pat Geoghegan said their goal is to build usage, which will in turn build revenues. “We’re cutting every bit of waste we can.”
Commission member Frank Adimari added, “Meanwhile, we don’t want to cheapen the product. Our members expect a certain standard.”
As far as looking at the Club’s agreement with the City, the City Manager said the study it was based on is out of date. “We’ve been able to reduce the number of positions together. We are down 15 positions across the City,” said Pickup.
Yandrasevich said, “I think we need an opportunity to cut the deficit. We’re no longer anticipating things will turn around and basing our budgets on that.” Further, the Commission doesn’t think it’s good practice to depend on fund balance.
While the Council agrees that the Club continues to be a great resource for residents, it doesn’t always agree with the way the club or restaurant operates. The Council questioned the new $300 food minimum, which many members said they hadn’t been informed of in advance, and the early closing of the pool this year (a week earlier than usual).
Councilmembers and Club members made a number of revenue-generating suggestions at the meeting. Among them were: allowing more outside events on Monday when the club is closed; keeping the restaurant open later on weekends; and improving the menu at Whitby.
Club members made a great many comments on everything from the food to the cost. Young members of the swim team encouraged the club to start serving healthier choices as members of the team are putting on weight from all the fried foods and are not winning enough races. Several adult members remarked that the cost of membership has become too expensive for too many Rye residents. Bob Zahm, a swim club member, expressed his opposition to the $300 annual food minimum. He directed his dissatisfaction to Commission members: “Your problem is a revenue problem.” Kate Tiedemann asked that there be term limits for Commission members.
At the end of a long but very productive meeting, the Council encouraged the Club to keep the pool open another week after Labor Day and agreed to give the Commission more time to produce its preliminary budget numbers for 2013.
Club members asked the Commission to hold a forum and to make sure they provide an opportunity for policy input from all members.
At the most recent City Council meeting, July 11, the Council outlined the approved changes in Rye Golf voting procedures going forward: online voting to replace paper ballots; notification of voting dates and procedures via email and postings on the Club’s website and bulletin boards; a computer kiosk for those without computer access; voting must occur in the specified two-week period; and the tallying of votes by online service company.
The Council agreed that good dialogue had occurred as a result of the joint meeting.