The battle over Broadacres Golf Course continues to play a key role in discussions of the 2013 Orangetown budget.
Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart sparked a heated debate of the fate of the course when he suggested its closure earlier this year and he included closing it as part of his proposed budget for 2013.
The primary stated reason is an estimated average loss of $300,000 per year.
Joe Wrafter, who has managed the course for eight years, questioned those numbers when he spoke at the Orangetown Town Board's workshop Tuesday night.
"Revenue increased from 2005 to 2010 by 40 percent and we ended up at this phantom number of $312,000 (lost for 2011)," Wrafter said. "I'd like to see the support of those number and an explanation of what expenses escalated at a significant amount to give us these astronomical losses year after year."
Wrafter cited numbers in recent newspaper stories, but Stewart said he should stick to the audited records of the town.
"The numbers in the audited books of the town, I've shared with you and the pubic in the past," Stewart said. "That's where you need to get your numbers, not from the newspaper, where sometimes there are problems.
"There is no question whether there is a deficit or not and no question to the quality of the management of the course and the investment of people like yourself in making it a golf course people want to go to, but the numbers are what they are."
Wrafter pointed out that in better times for the golf courses in Orangetown, they were supportive of the town.
"It seems unfair to me that when golf courses run a deficit now, the town forgets what happened in the past."
Members of the golf committee including Larry Costello questioned the practicality of closing the golf course, pointing out that at least in the short term, the savings would be limited. The town would still have expenses related to the course even if it closed, though they would be reduced.
Councilman Tom Diviny continued to argue that the only way closing Broadacres makes sense is if the current full-time employees there are laid off rather than moved elsewhere in the Parks and Recreation Department.
"If you're going to close the golf course, you have to get rid of the employees to have real savings. I don't think anybody can dispute that."
He also questioned some of the numbers in Stewart's proposed budget, specifically projected 25 percent increase in business at Blue Hill Golf Course if Broadacres is closed.
"You are not going to get a 25 percent increase at Blue Hill from closing Broadacres," Diviny said. "The prime times at Blue Hill are all booked. The people who play Broadacres are going to go somewhere else. You might get 10 percent."
"That's one of the numbers that is really guesswork," Stewart said.
Councilman Paul Valentine suggested that Stewart gauge CSEA reaction to potentially laying off full-time employees when closing Broadacres.
"We should know the answer tomorrow," Diviny said. "We've been dealing with this since April."
Stewart said he is concerned with making sure that the town doesn't face extra complications if it lays those employees off, but the option is on the table.
Councilman Denis Troy said the discussion of the course's value has to go beyond just lines in the budget.
"One thing that still has to be taken into consideration is the value of the asset itself as a golf course," Troy said. "It's not as valuable as it was 10 or 15 years ago when golf was really hot, but it's still an asset. If you let it grow over, you don't have that asset any more."
"It's also an asset to the taxpayers and general public of the town," Wrafter said. "It's a tremendous asset to those people. We should never lose sight of that. It's not just dollars and cents, but human beings."
Valentine and other members of the board also called for ongoing exploration into finding a private entity to take over the course.
Other Budget Issues
Troy questioned if the board was getting too bogged down in one of many budget issues.
"We're in the hole four to six million and we're arguing about $300,000," Troy said. "What else are we going to talk about on the budget tonight?"
Stewart asked for suggestions. Valentine said he and other members of the council are putting together ideas for the budget, but no councilmen were ready to make any suggestions Tuesday night.
"We're trying to come up with proposals," Diviny said. "Some of these are ideas we think are great, but they may not be great once we have input from the department heads."
Stewart also announced Tuesday night that he has chosen the Jeff Vencik of Haverstraw as the town's new finance director.