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Options On The Table: Calhoun Country Club

September 15, 2017

The Calhoun Country Club Board (Club Board) approached Calhoun County Administration (County) last year about the possibility of the County purchasing or leasing Calhoun Country Club (golf facility/facilities). This happened after the Club Board pursued listing the golf facilities for private sale. This listing effort failed because of the exorbitant fees associated with “specialty” real estate listings.

 

It is fairly well understood that Calhoun Country Club has seen lost membership revenue as well as decreased usage (green fees) in recent years. The decline in revenue translated to a decline in general upkeep which created a vicious cycle when, on the one hand, you are losing revenue needed for repairs and general upkeep but, on the other hand, your lost revenue precludes you from making the needed repairs and general upkeep. The Club Board wishes to see the golf facilities pass into hands that will see that it remains operational and is given the facelift it needs.

 

Current efforts into the feasibility of leasing or purchasing the golf facilities by the County have been exploratory in nature only. Denise Christmas, Calhoun County Deputy Administrator/Finance was emphatic, “We have not committed to doing anything with the golf course at this point….but we do know that the golf course cannot continue operating as it is right now.” She further stated that the County does not want the golf facilities to close down. This will lead to a decrease in the property values of the homes surrounding the golf facilities, as well as force our citizens to travel outside our county to play golf.  If they are playing golf in another county, they are spending money in that county, thus decreasing Calhoun County’s sales tax revenue.  Also, it could result in a decrease in property tax revenue for the County from the surrounding properties and from the golf facility itself.

 

If the golf facility remains open and receives the facelift it needs it could very well return to being one of the most sought after courses in the area. Golfers from around the country used to travel to Calhoun County to play the rolling fairways. The gentle fall, winter, and spring climate in South Carolina offers play during those times of the year in which other courses are forced to close. Permanently closing this facility isn’t an option the County supports.

 

There are two options on the table that the County is looking into:

 

     1. Lease

          a. Calhoun Country Club Board would continue managing the golf facilities or

          b. An individual or management firm would be hired to manage the golf facilities

               i. County does NOT plan to add staff to county employment rolls to support this venture so the more viable option would be to hire a management firm.

 

     2. Purchase

          a. An individual or management firm would be hired to manage the golf facilities

               i. County does NOT plan to add staff to county employment rolls to support this venture so the more viable option would be to hire a management firm.

 

Either way the County would run the golf facility as an enterprise much the same way as the water department is currently ran.  A government enterprise can have revenue that out paces expenses but that “excess” revenue can only be used in support of the enterprise from which the revenue came. The “excess” is “saved” for future reinvestments in the enterprise itself.

 

Ms. Christmas did want to point out that the County currently uses county tax revenue to support the county’s recreational activities and facilities.  However, added Ms. Christmas, “the County has never said that we would raise taxes to support the golf course.” The County looks at the golf facility much as it does the John Ford Community Center, St. Johns Community Center, Fort Motte Community Center and the Sandy Run Athletic Field, with the exception that the golf facility is expected to be self-sufficient. The aforementioned facilities were developed using county tax dollars as well as Park and Recreation Development (PARD) Funds; a grant that matches dollar-for-dollar those funds invested by the County. The County would pursue PARD funds and other grants to help with the costs associated with the golf facility project.

 

The County does have a Capital Improvement Fund where 2mils of tax revenue were “saved” for future projects and capital purchases.  A sizable fund had been built so the 2mils were moved to other areas about two years ago. Funds are available to support repairs and improvements to the golf facilities without requiring a property tax hike. There are also other non-county tax sources available to help with this proposed project.

 

One such source is the annual payout to the County from the state’s Accommodations Tax. Anyone who stays in a hotel or motel in South Carolina are charged a 2% tax. In the 2016-2017 tax year County received $184,000 from this program. The previous year the County received $172,000. In times past these monies were deposited into the general fund and used where needed. This was appropriate because the county had no hotels. If the county takes the golf facilities these funds will be used, in whole or in part, to support it.

 

If, however, an investment group comes in (could be a group of Calhoun County residents, a group from outside the county, or a combination of the two), form a Tax Exempt, Non Profit Organization, and purchases the golf facilities, the property would not move into the County’s hands.  This type of arrangement would give the group access to grant monies to help rehabilitate and make capital improvements to the facilities in a similar way that they are available to the County. This option is probably the most preferred.

 

These are some of the options available for the continued operation of the golf facility and there is tremendous potential if it is well managed and marketed; a venture worth pursuing.

 

With this in mind, “The public hearing, public forum is necessary to see what our citizens have to say,” Ms. Christmas insisted.  Here are the details of the meeting:

 

Calhoun County Council Public Hearing/Comment Period

Calhoun County Council Chambers/Council Meeting

September 25, 2017 @ 5:30pm

 

The purpose of this Public Hearing/Comment Period is to receive public comments on Calhoun County owning and operating a public golf facility that is currently operated as a semi-private golf club by Calhoun Country Club, Inc.

 

Also under consideration is to have a private golf course option in which the County would grant a Fee-In-Lieu of Tax and Special Source Revenue Credit to reduce property taxes payable by the Club, as well as entering into a contract for public events to be held at the facility.

 

Public comments will be limited to five (5) minutes per person, or per spokesperson for a group. Written comments will also be accepted through September 22, 2017.

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