Two-Tier Fee Policy at Rye Golf Club Continues to Drive Division

0:00 By Robin Jovanovich In response to a request late last fall by the City Council, members of the Rye Golf Club Commission provided background […]

Published March 25, 2023 12:44 AM
3 min read

0:00

By Robin Jovanovich

In response to a request late last fall by the City Council, members of the Rye Golf Club Commission provided background on fee transparency at the March 15 Council meeting. General Manager Chris Correale said the Commission had taken the City’s request “very seriously and listened to feedback from the community.” The complete schedule was posted on the Club website and every member was sent an email with the information, along with a handbook, he said.

Councilman Bill Henderson, who was the first member of the Council to question the policy of charging residents who joined this year and last year 39 percent more than those who had been members for years, asked: “Do you plan to continue these rates next year?”

Commission Chair Terry McCartney joined Correale at the podium and explained, “Our Finance Committee looks at fees every year. We look at this as an initiation fee. We have to raise money to fund our CapEx projects, which are budgeted at $15 million and will probably cost closer to $17 million.”

Henderson remarked, “This increase, which totals about $200,000, is not going to help your capital needs all that much.” He went so far as to suggest the money be returned to those members who joined in the last two years and paid higher fees.

After accusing Councilman Henderson of badgering Mr. McCartney, Mayor Josh Cohn invited members of the public to the podium to “hear what they have to say.”

Joseph Donley, a longtime member, was one of several Allendale Drive residents who spoke. “The two-tier policy is unprincipled and arbitrary. Imagine the City Council has to close a funding gap and decides to raise the mill rate on new residents?” He continued, “The Commission says it has had this policy in place for 15 years. The documentation doesn’t support that view.”

James Fee is one of many members of “the class of 2022” (he joined last year).

“Rye citizens should not be charged two different rates for the same services. We want the same projects as the longtime members,” he told the Council. He also said that since the Council approves the rates recommended by the Commission they need to address and end this disparity.

Another class of 2022 member, Ed McGann, said when he joined he was told it was “a tradition to charge new members more in their first year but that changed in the second year. There was a lack of any information or justification on the website.” He then learned that those who joined in 2021 only paid a 4 percent increase. “New members are paying for wear and tear by older members. It is incumbent on the Council to recognize and push back on this policy.”

A Chester Drive resident offered: “The Council needs to think about equity and community when it comes times to pass the Golf Club budget this fall. The current policy is hurting the community.”

Councilman Henderson reminded the audience that the City is more than the landlord of Rye Golf Club, that it owns and operates the club, pool, Whitby Castle, and that the general manager and staff are City employees. “Rye taxpayers are on the hook for all litigation.”

He added, “I don’t blame the Golf Club Commission, which plays an important role in the governance of the club. The City Council needs to provide effective oversight. Our hands-off approach needs to change. This club needs to be run fairly and continue to be an asset and a magnet.”

When Henderson asked the mayor to schedule some time to discuss the matter further at the April 26 meeting, Cohn replied, “I will take it into consideration.”

Henderson said with frustration, “We have a great disparity, which I identified as a problem in December. I asked the mayor for a meeting on the rates and was told no.” If the mayor doesn’t agree to put the issue on the agenda, Henderson said he and other members of the Council will invoke their right to call a special meeting.

In addition to the frequent but not disruptive dustups among the members of the Council on March 15, the Ides of March, one resident who has attended many recent Rye Golf Club meetings in recent months made a good recommendation:  Make sure someone on the Council can attend or be brought up to speed on Golf Club Commission meetings as they often conflict with City Council meetings.

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