Golf course audit still shows red ink

Operation and maintenance costs at the Atchafalaya Golf Course in Patterson continue to run in the red without annual allocations from the St. Mary Parish Council.

Last year, the council’s allocation to the course was $400,000, which was $20,000 more than the allocation in 2010, according to Guy Pitts who delivered the annual audit report to the parish council Wednesday during its regular meeting.

“If it loses that much money year, after year, after year, it’s not just some aberration,” Pitts said.

The audit indicates that the course owes the council almost $1.4 million. Pitts said that does not include the annual $250,000 annual allocation it receives.

He credited members of the Golf Commission for doing all they can to trim expenses but added that costs to maintain the course’s Audubon Trail standard exceed the rounds of play.

“They’re using a pretty sharp pencil,” he said. “They’ve got their expenses pretty well in hand to maintain the facility that they’ve got. There’s just not enough rounds of play to generate the revenue to cover all the expenses.”

He suggested a source of revenue nondependent on rounds of play be considered such as an additional hotel/motel tax since the course does draw visitors from out of town.

Councilman Logan Fromenthal (District 6) reminded the council of a sentiment earlier expressed by at-large Councilman Steve Bierhorst that the course represents an $18 million investment by the council that they’re not willing to let fail.

“You hit it right on the head when you talked about a hotel/motel tax,” Bierhorst told Pitts. He added that levy of such would require state legislative approval.

“I’m not prepared to support a hotel/motel tax,” said Council Tim Tregle (District 7). “We have a lot of businesses and industry that use those hotels to help their employees.” He added that the existing tax is already significant.

Other funds running on deficit included the jail operation, but did improve over the previous year by $30,000, Pitts said. The total shortage in 2011 was $365,000. He said of the $14 million total operating cost of the jail, some $600,000 was for inmate medical care. He added that the sheriff is negotiating a new health care contract that should help to improve the costs.

Elsewhere, Pitts pointed out a special item that reduced landfill closure costs by $2.25 million due to a new monitoring method established by the administration.

Improvement also was made in the Small Animal fund which realized a $120,000 operating loss as compared to $240,000 in the previous year. Pitts said the decrease is due to the fact that the parish is no longer subsidizing “the dog and cat police” for other government entities.

The audit report came with a “clean opinion,”

It shows $29.5 million in total revenue on the year, and $27.9 million in total expenditures. Pitts said the revenue was a $3.6 million increase over the previous year with a $500,000 increase in ad valorem taxes and $1.7 million increase in Royalty Road funds from the state. There also was a onetime $330,000 allocation from BP related to the Gulf oil spill, he said.

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