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Vote eliminates $1.4M in golf course debt
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The Manteca Municipal Golf Course’s financial outlook is almost on par — at least for now.

The City Council last week essentially wrote off $1,412,425 the golf course operations owed for general fund loans to balance shortfalls in the golf budget. The loans date back to the 1990s.

City staff characterized the loans as a bookkeeping issue since they never have shown up as an account receivable for the general fund. In other words, the city never expected the golf course ever to repay the money.

The murky status of the cash advances was started when previous councils declined to classify the transfers as a loan. Instead, it put the money transfer status in limbo effectively creating issues with how the city balanced its collective books. Politically, the decision by previous councils not to nail down the status of the money that was transferred was an effort to keep a lid on controversy involving the golf course that was routinely being characterized in the 1990s as a financial drain on the city. Critics that were harsher than most routinely lambasted the city for building a “Taj Mahl” for a clubhouse instead of going with something more pedestrian.

Adding to the debt at times was a cost recovery charge from other departments that invested resources such as paid employee time into helping keep the golf, course up and running. Such charges included general city administration. Critics claimed the city was essentially charging twice for some services since salaries of administrators such as the city manager and parks and recreation director are already budgeted in the general fund.

McLaughlin noted general administration and overhead charges were suspended on July 1, 2007. She indicated, however, that they could be reinstated in 2015 after the city does a thorough examination of what it is costing other departments to assist the golf course.

Cost recovery charges are still in effect for the city’s three other enterprise accounts — sewer, water, and solid waste.

The last general fund loan of $140,000 was made four years ago three years after the cost recovery charge was dropped.

Resident Bruce Lowensbury argued against the debt forgiveness that was approved by a unanimous City Council vote with Vince Hernandez absent. He noted the $1.4 million would cover the salary, benefits and workers’ compensation insurance cost of a police officer for about 12 years.

Staff noted it was doubtful the golf course account would be able to start repaying funds in the near future since there is a list of capital improvements needed to keep the course playable.

As it stands now, the golf course is targeted to come up $13,000 short in revenue against expenses for the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2015.

The general fund is still making a $155,000 payment to the golf course each year to offset the cost of free and reduced youth and senior play.