SYCAMORE – The Sycamore Park District continues to chip away at the debt it has carried in its golf course fund over the past few years.
The park district’s Board of Commissioners approved its 2013 budget Tuesday, which projects the golf course fund to operate in the black for the first time in more than five years.
The golf course has consistently run deficits for a total debt of about $333,000 by the end of 2012, Sycamore Park District Executive Director Dan Gibble said. Also, the pool fund had a slight deficit – about $15,000 – last year. No other operating funds were in the red, but none have adequate reserves, Gibble said.
The golf course fund’s annual shortfall was reduced to $38,000 in 2012 compared to $160,000 in 2011. Gibble said the district was able to pay down $97,000 of the golf course debt in January with the money generated from the recreation fund’s proceeds in 2012. The golf debt now is roughly $236,000.
Working to eliminate the park district’s debt is part of its two-year short-term strategic plan that involves both cost-cutting and an increase in projected revenues, particularly for the golf course, Gibble said.
“We found better ways to do things,” he said.
They are lowering standards slightly to reduce the frequency of some maintenance projects and eliminating two positions, Gibble said. For example, they won’t mow as often.
But Gibble doesn’t believe these “lower standards” will affect the quality of the parks.
“We have good people, and we’ll keep an eye on it,” he said.
A 7 percent increase in golf course user fees this year also are expected to bring in more revenue to the fund.
Gibble said the district also plans to improve the ponds on five to seven acres of park land, which will cut mowing costs by about $30,000 a year and make the parks more appealing to visitors.
“It’ll beautify it ... and reduce our costs,” he said.
Board of Commissioners President Ted Strack commended Gibble for putting the park district back on track since his arrival in January of last year.
“The results are ultimately a measuring stick [for him],” he said.
By the end of 2014, Gibble said he expects the park district will have eliminated its golf course debt and have a 25 percent reserve fund balance in the general and recreation funds, which have operated with as little as 5 percent in reserves in years past.
When this goal is met, Gibble said the park district then can move forward with its long-term plan to be completed by the year 2020. This five-year plan involves connecting various trails and improving the more than 30-year-old swimming pool.
But right now, Gibble said they need to think short-term.
“[We’ve got to] get our ducks in a row, so we’re set to look forward to the future,” he said.