On Tuesday evening, the Harrisonburg City Council held their annual public hearing on next year’s fiscal budget. Their proposals included several tax increases, including raising the property tax rate, the water rate, and the sewer rate.
During the public hearing section of the meeting, about a dozen city residents spoke. The majority of these citizens voiced their support for greater energy efficiency in city buildings, some urging the creation of new position to study and improve this issue.
Fellow blogger Helen Shibut and I focused on a different topic, the city golf course. Certainly a hot button topic for a number of years since its creation, unfortunately, the matter of the golf course has received scant attention as of late.
As I see it, there are two main problems with Heritage Oaks.
First, to the best of my knowledge, the golf course has lost money every year that it has been in operation. In this most recent fiscal year, the course had a net loss of $514,951. It is estimated that next year the course will cost taxpayers $377,666, certainly an improvement, but still a considerable net drain on city resources that could be used on other, more important projects, or, better yet, if eliminated, could lessen the need for these proposed tax hikes.
Second, is it the proper role of the city government to operate a golf course? If public demand for a golf course were so great, wouldn’t the private sector have met this desire on its own accord? Given that the course hemorrhages money year after year, does that fact mean that the course is run inefficiently, or simply unneeded? And, as an added penalty, doesn’t the city-subsidized course hurt the privately owned golf facilities in the area?
For these reasons, I told the council that I believed that the city would be better off if it simply sold the course as soon as possible.
Afterward, Roger Baker, the former city manager and 2012 candidate for city council, spoke. As part of his talk, he argued in favor of the course.
Although the Daily News Record, the local paper, covered the city council meeting in yesterday’s edition, they curiously made no mention of any discussion on the golf course issue. One does have to wonder why.
During the brief break in the proceedings, several of the council members came over to Helen and me to speak on the matter. Interestingly, it sounded as if some members of the council would be receptive to selling off the golf course provided they received a suitable offer.
Tuesday’s council meeting left me a bit more optimistic about the future of Harrisonburg and our city council members.
If you or anyone you know is interested in purchasing the Heritage Oaks Golf Course, please let city council know as soon as possible. It is past time to sell off the golf course, not only for the financial burden it imposes on the taxpayers, but to finally return this pastime to the free market where it belongs.