Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Fore privatization 

Tom Steward of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota has been making some noise with his scorecard of municipal golf courses. �Many of them make losses, and if one was to use the yellow pages test developed by Stephen Goldsmith of Indianapolis you certainly wouldn't think muni courses were a good use of public dollars.

But to take one example, the Becker course (#5 on Tom's list) is largely funded by the revenues from Sherburne County coal burner operated by Xcel. �It looks like a loss because the City of Becker operates it as a separate enterprise. �It puts all the costs out for people to see, but you don't see all the revenue. �For instance, the third nine-hole tract was developed later, and about fifty homes and condos are built around there. �The property value is higher because of the course, and thus so are the tax revenues. �But those revenues aren't shown in enterprise revenues.

Revenues from the coal burner also fund a huge community center down the street from the Pebble Creek course. �That's not an enterprise;�parks are just held in a parks & recreation budget and unlisted. �According to a former city official I spoke with the loss on the community center is greater than for Pebble Creek. �But few of us would hold up a park and say "it has to pay for itself." �Public recreational space is likely to be underprovided.

The better point the FFM article makes is that there are so many other courses available against whom these muni courses compete. �For that very same reason, there isn't much of a market for these courses if you did privatize them. �The opportunity cost of the land devoted to golf, and the funds tied up in the course do not show up on any statement, but they are quite real. �

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