WINNIPEG is set to take another swing at staving off financial losses at city-run golf courses.
On Thursday, the city released a new report that recommends Winnipeg lease four city-run golf courses -- Crescent Drive, Harbour View, Kildonan Park and Windsor Park -- to the private sector to reduce annual losses from $780,530 to $68,854.
The report is the city's latest attempt to stop the bleeding at Winnipeg Golf Services, a special operating agency that owns 12 public golf courses. The agency was projected to lose about $863,500 in 2012 and has a deficit of $7.1 million.
The city initially put out an expression-of-interest in 2011 to see if anyone wanted to purchase or take over the long-term leases of seven publicly owned golf courses after an audit revealed the courses have racked up large debts. Their potential sale prompted backlash from community groups that decried the lack of public consultation and possible loss of green space.
Last July, Winnipeg decided to examine the cost of operating the four city-run courses under public or private agreements instead.
Alternate service delivery committee chairman Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) said the latest recommendation preserves the existing green space and reduces the city's overall losses. Part of the challenge, Wyatt said, is there is a lot of competition between golf courses and city courses need more investment to maintain the facilities.
A city report estimates the four courses require a combined total of $4.6 million in maintenance, including tees, cart paths and irrigation systems. It said the courses had total combined losses of $872,167 in 2011.
"The hope is the private sector will come in and there will be investment in aging infrastructure," Wyatt said.
Critics hope council's alternate service delivery committee will examine other options before moving ahead with a search for private-sector partners.
St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes said Winnipeg is still projected to lose money under the new lease agreements and doesn't understand how that will help pay down Winnipeg Golf Service's long-term debt.
While financial statements show three courses operated with a net loss in 2011, Kildonan Park boasted more than $93,000 on its balance sheet.
Mayes said he plans to speak with other members of council about what options might exist for the courses. "I continue to have concerns about the numbers here," he said.
"We are losing money, but I don't personally feel we're losing as much as that report says."
If the recommendations are approved, three permanent full-time staff will be deployed elsewhere in the public service.
The report was made public the same day as another report that recommends Winnipeg issue a competitive bid for the city's custodial services, expected to save $1 million a year.
Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500 president Mike Davidson accused the city of being bent on privatization and said civic officials have ignored other suggestions of how it can save money on golf course operations, including revisiting other golf course lease agreements that net the city only $1 a year.
Scoping the greens
WINNIPEG wants to contract out the operations of four city-run golf courses. Here are the latest available financial figures:
The course: 18 holes on the west bank of the Red River adjacent to Kildonan Park. Opened in 1921.
Total revenue: $1.08 million
Total expenses: $755,403
Net income (after transfers to the city, interest on long-term debt etc.): $93,592
Maintenance needed: $1.5 million
The course: Nine-hole course located on the west bank of the Red River, next to Crescent Drive Park. Opened in 1966.
Total revenue: $283,293
Total expenses: $326,764
Net loss (after transfers to the city, interest on long-term debt etc.): $194,876
Maintenance needed: $775,000
HARBOUR VIEW GOLF COURSE AND RECREATION COMPLEX
The course: A nine-hole course with water in play on three of the nine holes. Opened in 1982.
Total revenue: $202,252
Total expenses: $417,456
Net loss (after transfers to the city, interest on long-term debt etc.): $400,198
Maintenance needed: $900,000
The course: An 18-hole course that crosses the Seine River three times. Opened in 1925.
Total revenue: $590,519
Total expenses: $764,894
Net loss (after transfers to the city, interest on long-term debt etc.): $370,685
Maintenance needed: $1.5 million
-- source: City of Winnipeg; 2011 statement of operations by course