Part of me wishes I had a little more time this week and the other remains grateful I didn’t spend any more time thinking about county budgets.
I stopped into a public discussion of the proposed 2017 Platte County budget last Wednesday, braving a vicious case of strep throat to try and see what direction the newly christened three-person commission might take. For the most part, presiding commissioner Ron Schieber and district commissioners Dagmar Wood and John Elliott — both taking office in late December — went line by line to talk about small tweaks with Platte County auditor Kevin Robinson.
Save some money here, move this around there.
Not too much exciting to report. To be fair, I also might have been a bit incoherent due to the sickness, but I did my best to follow along. Government in action isn’t always that exciting.
The one main item I picked out came at the end of a meeting that ran a little long. In fact, the final part of the discussion led to the scheduling of another meeting on Monday, one that I couldn’t attend due to other obligations.
To save you some of the boredom, we are going to talk in generalities here and not the specific mechanics of what could be in the works. This is my late holiday gift to you.
Schieber brought up the budget for Shiloh Springs Golf Course and how the county should view the expected loss. As you likely now, KemperSports took over management of the county-owned course on July 1, 2015.
Part of the contract included language that would require KemperSports to show progress in revenue. More specifically, trying to bring the course closer to operating at a break-even point rather than losing money.
Proponents of the golf course wonder why green fees, facility rentals, etc. should be expected to fully offset costs or even provide a stream of revenue. After all, other parks with less means to bring in cash aren’t expected to do the same.
Part of this can be explained.
Shiloh Springs currently falls under the Platte County Parks and Recreation Department with funding coming from an occasionally controversial but twice-voter-approved one-half cent sales tax. The golf course is set up as an enterprise fund, which means revenues are expected to cover expenses and potentially create a profit.
Proponents of the golf course would wonder why it’s set up that way and whether the designation can be changed. There’s never really been a clear answer on that.
The commissioners — all three — have been adamant opponents of the county being in the golf course business. This has come up time and again and shouldn’t be any secret.
So not surprisingly, the discussion last week centered on how to make sure the course’s projections were accurately reflected in the budget. Schieber said he believes the course will come up well short of the targets set in the contract with KemperSports.
To me, this looks like some initial posturing to try and show that temporary fix of hiring a management firm wasn’t good enough. I fully expect the commission to push for new alternatives if KemperSports can’t make the numbers work and the public doesn’t support Shiloh Springs enough.
Keep an eye open. This long-running story seems likely to heat back up in the near future.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: