Meadowlakes absorbs $900,000 more in golf course expenses, maintains tax rate

The 2015-2016 fiscal year budget for the city of Meadowlakes increased by $900,000 to about $2.9 million, according to budget figures, primarily due to expenses associated with taking over the operations of the Hidden Falls Golf Course. File photo

CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

MEADOWLAKES — City officials have managed to avoid a tax or water rate increase and maintain about the same budget expenses while taking over the Hidden Falls Golf Course and amenities for the upcoming fiscal year.

The 2015-2016 fiscal year budget for the city of Meadowlakes increased by $900,000 to about $2.9 million, according to budget figures, primarily due to expenses associated with taking over the operations of the golf course, restaurant, pool and other recreation amenities.

“It increased our budget by about $900,000 per year, which is roughly about 30 percent of the city’s budget,” City Manager Johnnie Thompson said.

On Sept. 8, city council members approved the same rate as the previous year at 32.06 cents per $100 valuation on property.

City officials say they kept the tax rate the same by changing the way the city handles debt payments and because of a boost in property values.

“Part of the additional income from taxes is offsetting what would normally have been transferred in from the utility fund toward debt. We actually had a fairly decent building boom the current year and last year as well,” Thompson said. “Part of it is actually attributed to new appraised property within the city, and the rest of it (is) reappraisals.

“Basically, that tax rate is generating approximately $50,000 more than last year,” he added.

Appraised property values increased from $200 million to $216 million, about an eight percent increase over last year.

With the same rate, the taxes paid on the average home are expected to increase by about $54 more than last year.

An assessment of the biggest expenditures for the city indicates golf course expenses rank just behind water/wastewater services, with water/wastewater operations (utility) calculated to be $300,000 larger than the golf course (recreation) fund.

“The water/sewer rates remain the same. There’s no changes in rates or fees,” Thompson said. “We’re shifting more and more burden of the retirement of debt to property taxes. In prior years, a lot of that debt had been paid by rates and fees in the utility bill.”

Also to make up the difference, officials eliminated the former golf course complex general manager position, which was about $60,000 plus amenities.

On the golf complex addition to the budget, the city created a Public Facilities Corp. (PFC) about six years ago and found the arrangement to be a money-losing proposition.

The city council this year voted to dissolve the PFC, which becomes final Oct. 1 when the city will assume full operation of the complex.

The recreation department will now fall under the authority of the city manager’s office.

The department includes a pro shop/golf course operations, golf course maintenance and food and beverage operations.

Plans in the next budget for the facility include $85,000 more to buy and upgrade equipment for the golf course.

To help generate revenue, city officials expect to promote the complex — comprised of the course, restaurant and pool — as a public facility that welcomes people from outside the Meadowlakes community as well as residents.

Final budget figures indicate departments maintained primarily the same expenses, and city officials even approved another staff member for administrative purposes.

“The budget is pretty close to the same as it was last year,” Thompson said. “We’re very fortunate we had an appraised value increase that allowed us to generate those additional funds that we needed.

connie@thepicayune.com

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