In an op-ed commentary published in the local paper, the owners of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa course said their record of always making a profit would be jeopardized by a proposed property-tax hike, which they see as especially unfair given that four city-run courses pay no taxes and still lose $250,000 annually.
In an op-ed commentary published in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa Gazette, Jim Dyer, Waldo Morris and John Rosenberg, owners of St. Andrews Golf Course in Cedar Rapids, made their case for privatizing the four courses that are run by the city with just over 125,000 people.
“We purchased and developed St. Andrews Golf Course 43 years ago,” the owners’ opinion piece began. “We built apartments, condos [and] office buildings, and enlarged an existing golf course from nine holes to an 18-hole golf course.
“St. Andrews Golf Course is mainly built into a flood plain zone that has little value and is only good for a golf course,” the owners continued. “[It] is one of two privately owned public courses in the city of Cedar Rapids. The other is Airport National on the south side.
“We have had a great manager, Mike Hall, for many years and we have always made a profit, but the profits have been rather slim in the last few years,” the owners continued. “The city is proposing to raise our property taxes, but now is not the time to raise property taxes. We pay $53,014 per year in property taxes, and the city golf courses pay zero.
“For 43 years we have never been in the red, but if property taxes increase and prices and income stay low, we will have to consider another use for this property, which may be difficult in a flood plain,” the St. Andrews’ owners wrote.
“We survive a flood every two to three years, and repair the damage at our expense,” the owners noted.
“Note that the City of Cedar Rapids has four golf courses that pay no property taxes and still have a deficit of $250,000 for each of the last 10 years,” the owners continued. “This is a total of $2.5 million over the last 10 years, and we have to compete with this.
“We are concerned about the management of the city courses, as it undoubtedly affects St. Andrews Golf Course,” the owners wrote. “For instance, we have six full-time and two part-time staff compared to Twin Pines [Golf Course in Cedar Rapids], which has 17 employees.
“Only a certain number of people play golf in the city, but all taxpayers, including us, subsidize the city courses to a tune of $250,000-plus per year,” the owners noted.
“We suggest the city turn over the courses to private enterprise and save the taxpayers that cost,” the owners continued. “Other suggestions are to raise the fees so the city-owned courses at least break even.
“This has to change,” the owners wrote. “City-owned golf courses should not be run at a loss. If we ran St. Andrews Golf Course like the city courses are run, we would not last 30 days.
“Maybe a tax abatement on St. Andrews Golf Course would be in order to level the playing field with the city courses,” the owners suggested. “Many cities are turning over services to free enterprises that save the cities large sums of money. Usually, the product is better.
“Hiring consultants, as the city has done, costs a lot of money,” the owners noted. “Our suggestion, which we make at no cost to the city, is for the city to turn over the courses to free enterprise and eliminate [the] large loss to the taxpayers, or raise fees. Other options are to sell part of Ellis [Golf Course in Cedar Rapids] and Twin Pines for development. Jones Park [Golf Course in Cedar Rapids], which is flood-prone, could be made into a park.
“We need to work together to solve this problem,” the St. Andrews’ owners commentary concluded.