By Greg Nikkel
The Weyburn Golf Club are in negotiations with the City of Weyburn for ownership of the golf course property, members were told in an update at the Golf Club’s annual meeting on Thursday evening, and if an agreement is reached there will be a vote by the membership before it takes effect.
The update came from club president Brian Bakken, as he noted this is the culmination of an effort over the last several years to deal with the issue of property taxes levied by the RM of Weyburn, particularly after they took a huge jump from around $3,000 a year to $38,000.
Part of the issue around the tax jump is the fact that most of the golf courses that Weyburn competes against do not pay taxes, as they are on municipal property, regional or provincial park property or are municipally-owned.
“It was more to get us on a level playing field with other golf courses in southeast Saskatchewan,” said Bakken.
The tax issue was made more public when the Golf Club released information in December, and the RM put a tax lien on the property as they withheld payment of taxes. Bakken told the AGM that the arrears are paid or are about to be paid, and this year, the tax bill dropped slightly to about $23,000.
According to the audited financial statement for 2016, the Golf Club owed $196,938 for taxes to the RM.
“We’ve had many, many meetings over the years with all levels of government, and we ran into many walls. There are still some hurdles there, but we are in talks with the City of Weyburn over ownership. It won’t change how we operate but it would change our tax status,” said Bakken, adding that it is very difficult for the Golf Club to do any capital expenditures when they have to pay a huge property tax bill every year.
Asked if this was why the club is in talks with the city, Bakken replied, “Once we become a municipal property, we become tax-exempt.”
The issue was not really discussed publicly before their news release came out, he said, because they had nothing to report as nothing new was happening, but there were some details on the issue reported at past annual meetings.
“If at some time in the future we reach an agreement with the City, it will have to come to the membership for ratification. It won’t be done unilaterally by the board,” added executive member John Corrigan.
Stan Runne said there are 998 people who have memberships, of which around 300 are people who are now deceased.
The memberships used to be available as “shares” until the rules changed for non-profit organizations, and the term was changed to “memberships”, Corrigan explained.
In the board elections, Bakken, Corrigan and Elmer Franks were acclaimed to new two-year terms, and Bakken notified those present that this is his last year as president of the Golf Club, although he will stay on as a board member.
In the financial report, provided by Mike Melanson of Cogent, the revenues were down for the Golf Club, with expenses also down, with the Golf Club taking a loss of $38,672 on the year. Revenues totalled $717,844, which was down $98,862 from the previous year, while expenses totalled $756,516.
The Legacy Project, which involves a tournament to raise funds to pay down the Golf Club’s debt, saw a slight increase from $12,862 in 2015 to $13,664 in 2016.
Some of the losses in revenues included for memberships, down by five per cent, green fees, down by 10 per cent, and sponsorships which were down by eight per cent. Expenses overall were down by $6,319, with the single biggest decrease coming in repairs and maintenance to the building.
Salaries and wages for grounds workers and the Pro Shop were up by 6.7 per cent, but repairs and maintenance for equipment was down by about $5,500.
In his report, manager Brett Berkner noted there were 229 members and 22,000 rounds of golf played last year, and sponsorships were down due to the local economy.
The golf course opened on April 7, and they will be holding their second night tournament this year, with 60 people playing in it last year. Twilight golf is also back this year, and will be starting later in May.
A new feature this year will be two beverage carts, with the old cart fixed up to be parked at certain holes during tournament events to sell burgers and hot dogs.
Greens superintendent Lach Reeve noted this will be his 18th season at the Weyburn course.
A shortage of water was a major worry last year, with the golf course going nearly a full three months without any significant rainfall.
There may be some holes that will show drought stress this spring, said Reeve, but he felt it was too early yet in the season to know the extent of this damage.
He and his crew will be building a new putting green this year, closer to the clubhouse, and there will be new flower planters put on holes throughout the course this year, having been purchased by the ladies golf club.
The ladies club will start league play on Tuesday, May 9, and the Ladies Open has been set for July 22 and 23, reported ladies club president Bonnie Sidloski.
By Greg Nikkel