This time of year at the Valley View Golf Course usually brings concerns about the weather and getting the 18-hole municipal layout ready for yet another season of play.
This time, however, other concerns have also emerged, including high expenses, possible patronage jobs and a decreasing membership.
“Over the last couple of years, people are asking what the hell’s going on with the golf course,” said Councilman Mark Williamson, R-at-large. “it’s losing money. It’s this, that and everything else, so I looked at it again and started doing my research.”
The Utica Common Council recently approved a resolution calling for an internal, forensic audit of the course. In addition, Valley View’s manager has been demoted and replaced by a relative of Mayor Robert Palmieri’s wife.
The city’s municipal golf commission, which oversees the golf course, is a five-member board appointed by Palmieri. It is headed by a chairman, but Palmieri, Council Majority Leader Bill Phillips, D-5, and Williamson, the council’s minority leader, serve as ex officio members of the board.
Its duty, according o the city’s charter, is to manage, operate, maintain and govern the course, the pro shop and the lower level of the Bertolini Clubhouse on the premises.
Budgetary figures show that the revenues didn’t meet the expenditures at the course. In 2015, for instance, the course received $361,210.53 in revenue from items like season memberships, green fees and cart rentals. The expenditures for that year, however – which included salaries, telephone service and fuel – were $423,881.19.
“First of all, expenses go up yearly between unemployment insurance, health care, payroll, pesticides, any equipment,” said Dominic Longo, the course’s former manager who was appointed in 2008 and who now will work around 20 hours a week as assistant manager. “All that stuff goes up and the revenues go down because (other courses are) charging less, so you’ve got to be in competition with them so you’ve got to charge a little bit less or you run specials. That brings the revenues down.”
While membership revenue has fluctuated since the ’08-09 season, it has shown a downward trend since that season when the revenue was $93,100, according to figures provided by Longo. The membership revenue was $61,105 for the ’15-16 season, the lowest in the past eight years. There were 239 members in 2010, but 112 members in 2015.
“Membership has gone down, but it’s gone down all over the country,” Longo said. “there’s competition.”
The commission was also getting $1,666,50 a month as part of a deal with the city to that split the rent between the entities, according to the city Comptroller’s Office. That agreement, however, ended in the 2014 fiscal year.