By Margie Plunkett
Boca Raton leaders looking for creative ways to drive revenue up in another tight budget year have raised the possibility of selling a city golf course.
The idea came up at a recent council meeting, during which members struggled with covering ever increasing revenues without raising taxes — or dipping further into the city’s reserves.
“I feel strongly about looking at alternate ways of raising money,” said council member Constance Scott, pushing to get an appraisal of the property and to look at alternatives for the property.
Selling a property could raise cash, but the city manager, residents and fellow lawmakers offered cautions against considering filling budget coffers with one-time income generators, such as sale of the city-owned golf course.
The city-owned and operated greens are Boca Raton Municipal Championship/Executive Golf Courses at 8111 Golf Course Road, which is on the north side of Glades and west of the turnpike, and Red Reef Park Executive Course at 1221 N. Ocean Blvd. While selling a property can provide needed revenue, City Manager Leif Ahnell said the danger in relying on a one-time gain: There may not be future options for replacing that income stream or the expenses that have since grown.
Mayor Susan Whelchel didn’t think it likely a property would sell fast enough to generate revenue for the budget that has to be approved by September. “I’m not interested in talking about the golf course,” she said during the same meeting. “You’re not going to sell it in time for this tax year. Let’s live with what’s in front of us rather than pie in the sky — something that can be done quickly.”
Resident Lenore Wachtel urged council to hold on to its courses, listing a host of reasons it’s not time to sell. Golf courses enhance Boca Raton’s prestige and are important to corporations with a presence here or that might want to move here. Hard assets like property are more attractive than soft assets, like the dollar, right now, Wachtel said.
Besides providing enjoyment for residents, the golf course produces income, has paid off its municipal bonds and it has reserves, she said.
With the economy still lackluster, the course “is still having problems, but what doesn’t?” Wachtel asked. “I don’t hear anyone talk about selling City Hall. I don’t think you should sell the municipal golf courses either.”
The resident also pointed out that the property has appreciated tremendously since purchased — and the city would have to answer to the public about what it would do with the dollars from such a property sale.
Meanwhile, the city won’t get the price the property is worth by selling into the weak market, Wachtel said. “Commercial is certainly at a low and it’s not time to do something,” she said. “It’s not a good time to lease or sell. Those people forced to are selling at bargain prices.”
A quick search of the Internet also indicates that if the city put its golf course on the market, it wouldn’t be alone.
One website indicated the 55-acre Boca Raton Executive County Club course recently was for sale. The course, which is east of I-95, has been closed since it was damaged by a hurricane years ago. A fire ravaged the country club in December.