Losing green: Eagle-Vail golf funds low
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE-VAIL ” A new pool isn’t the only thing at stake for Eagle-Vail in this fall’s elections, metro board officials say.
The Eagle-Vail metro district is in great need of cash and will soon be in financial trouble if it doesn’t get more funding, said John Nichols, president of the agency’s board.
“It’s urgent enough that we need to do something now. We’re trying to make plans to keep reserves from being spent down to zero,” Nichols said.
One option is to keep property tax rates, which expire in 2009, the same. Because of increased property values, keeping the rate the same would bring in more taxes for the district. Homeowners, who would face higher taxes, are voting on the issue and the results will be on Election Day Tuesday.
The money would be used to replace the swimming pool, tennis courts, maintain the golf course and build a new trail.
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The Eagle-Vail metro district will end the year with a $2 million balance, district accountant Ken Marchetti said.
The district has been losing $300,000 each year since 2001, Marchetti said, meaning the district can stay afloat for five to six more years before it completely runs out of money.
But that is not much time considering how long it takes to pass new funding measures, he said.
The metro district board hired Borne Engineering this year to evaluate the condition of neighborhood facilities. The firm reported that upkeep and repair would cost about $20 million over the next 20 years, Nichols said.
To bring in revenue, the metro district historically relied on golf course profits and fees paid by new homes to hook up to water utilities, Nichols said.
With multiple golf courses in the county, Eagle-Vail’s course is losing money, and because the neighborhood is built to near capacity, tap fees are drying up too, Nichols said.
“Eagle-Vail and Vail used to be the only two public golf courses that all the locals and tourists played on,” Marchetti said. “As more opened, that revenue went down and after 9/11 we started operating at a deficit.”
The district has tried to cut costs by cutting all staff incomes by 5 percent, Marchetti said. Over the past few years, the district has also sold some of its assets, including a home for employees, and some land and water rights.
It has also heavily marketed the golf course, he said.
If the district does not get more money, the next cuts will be more dramatic, he said.
“They’re going to have to start liquidating items you’re going to notice more. It’ll be parks or soccer fields,” Marchetti said.
The district’s dwindling coffers are already apparent in the cutbacks the district has had to make on recreational facilities, said Jeff Layman, the Eagle-Vail Property Owner’s Association president.
“The skate park is falling apart, the ice rink had to shut down and we’ve cut the days we groom the cross country trail,” he said.
That also means there won’t be money to finance improvement projects for the neighborhood, such as adding recreation facilities or building a new clubhouse, he said.
But some residents think the metro board should have done something about the problem a long time ago.
The board should have reconsidered its revenue sources when the golf course first started losing money, said Amy Phillips, who lives in an Avon neighborhood that’s part of the metro district.
“Thirty years ago the golf course was a cash cow. Fifteen years ago that started changing. As the economy started changing, (the board) failed to change with it,” Phillips said.
Instead of subsidizing the golf course with tax money, the district should have been looking at ways to revamp and revitalize the course and the nearby recreation facilities, she said.
The course is difficult and hilly in a neighborhood with an increasing elderly retired population, she said.
“They haven’t looked at the people who don’t use their facilities and asked why,” Phillips said.
Just finding money to keep and replace existing facilities is a short-sighted approach, resident Kristi Ferraro said.
“Is it appropriate to just replace what was good 30 years ago,” she said. “These plans aren’t responsive to what the community wants or needs,”
Another example of bad management was closing down the neighborhood’s restaurant, Mulligan’s, Phillips said.
The restaurant was successful, and now the district has to provide food and beverage service for the golf course, she said.
“It’s just one of the things the metro district has done to alienate the people they should be looking to support them,” she said.
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or email@example.com.