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Losses shrink at Jacksonville golf courses, but issues remain

Thomas Clatterbuck

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Last year we reported on the dire financial situation at the two golf courses owned by the City of Jacksonville. Municipal golf courses are not designed to be money makers, but the operating losses at the Links and Nichols Park had grown out of control. Rising expenses had rapidly outpaced stagnate revenue. Losses topped $212,000 in 2016. In 2017, losses were quite a bit lower at $151,000. This reversal was achieved by shedding costs.

This rapid curtailing of expenses is commendable. Operating expenses were down 17 percent on the year. That is even factoring in increased depreciation, which is largely beyond the courses’ control. The “contractual services” category saw an almost $80,000 drop in 2017, and was the main driver behind the decline. So the expense side of the equation is definitely moving in the right direction.

But there is still a reason to be concerned about the courses’ financial health. Revenue, which had been steady, dropped more than eight percent. The courses brought in just $310,000 in 2017. That is down from $338,000 in 2016, and nowhere near the $377,000 generated in 2012. Declining golf revenue is not a problem unique to Jacksonville. Golf’s popularity has been waning across the country for some time.

Compared with last year, the Jacksonville courses are in a much better overall position. But cutting costs can only do so much to correct a deficit situation. Expenses were only three percent higher in 2017 than in 2012; yet revenue was down 18 percent in the same period. The courses showed they can get spending under control. Now they have to focus on getting their customers back.

You can read the full audit here. The golf information is on page 11 of the report (page 15 of the PDF).

Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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