Wednesday, 23 January 2013 15:45

Swift Current Council approves golf course and cemetery rate increases

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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The Chinook Golf Course will continue to generate a profit for the City of Swift Current after some small rate increases for the 2013 season.

Councillors approved the new golf course rates and a revised cemetery fee structure at their regular meeting on Jan. 21.
Director of Recreation and Parks Dean Robson told the meeting the golf course is the only City recreational facility showing a profit.
“There is very few City facilities that make money, whether it's your art gallery, museum, library, skating rinks,” he noted. “Municipal communities decide on what they want to provide for their residents and what's expected and golf courses are no different.”
He added the City has a slight advantage in the case of the golf course, compared to other facilities, with more options to provide different types of entertainment type services for refreshments.
“We sure want to continue to generate a profit at Chinook Golf Course but we also want to provide a good product and a good experience for golfers within the region and coming from outside the province,” he said. “We feel this course is probably one of the best maintained in western Canada.”
The 2013 rates include a $1 increase to green fees for adults. There is no change to the green fees for seniors, juniors and children.
The 2013 season passes increase with $40 for adults, $30 for adult weekly season passes and $60 for couples. The young adult, student, child and family passes remain the same to encourage younger golfers to use the facility. The young adult age requirement increases from 25 to 29 years.
The fees for 9 and 18-hole 10 game passes also remain the same as in 2012. The daily power cart rental fee remains unchanged after last year's $1 increase. The annual cart rental rates, which did not change last year, will increase $20 per rider.
According to Robson the Chinook Golf Course rates remain competitive but slightly lower than at other golf courses. The 2013 rates are expected to generate an additional $16,699 that will allow the City to cover some expected increases in operational expenses.
Over the past seven seasons there have been a steady increase in both expenses and revenue at the Chinook Golf Course. Only the 2010 season showed a loss of $19,081. In other years the surplus varied between a low of $24,182 (2008) and a high of $79,610 (2009). The 2012 season resulted in a surplus of $57,462.
The cost to operate the golf course has increased from $535,744 in 2006 to $695,386 in 2012. Over the same period revenue increased from $562,164 in 2006 to $752,848 in 2012.
The City is anticipating a surplus of $58,918 for 2013, which is based on expected expenses of $715,940 and expected revenue of $774,858.
The City is planning a number of upgrades at the golf course in the near future. These include renovations to the pro shop and restaurant to make better use of the breezeway between the two areas and revamping the washrooms.
The intention is to make the washroom facilities available during winter for cross-country ski activities. This year the 18th hole will be extended from a par 3 to a par 4 and it will cross the creek.
“We think it will be a great finishing hole,” he said. “It will put us a little closer to the clubhouse so people can watch other golfers or family members coming in.”
Cemetery fee increases for 2013 and 2014
Council approved a new two-year fee structure for Swift Current cemeteries that will maintain the recovery rate on the cost of delivering the service at just over 70 per cent.
It will result in a five per cent increase for interments and disinterment and a five per cent increase for lots with effect from Feb. 1, 2013.
There will be another five per cent increase for interments and disinterment and a five per cent increase for lots on Feb. 1, 2014.
“I think we’re satisfied with over 70 per cent recovery,” Robson said. “Where you run into challenges in municipal cemeteries are when you start filling up but you still maintain and operate a facility that has very high expectations and is very near and dear to loved ones.”
As a result of the new fee structure the projected recovery rate will be 72 per cent for 2013 and 73 per cent for 2014. In 2012 the actual recovery rate was around 71 per cent.
Fees have increased annually since 2006. During the period 1989 to 1998 there was an average recovery rate of 77 per cent on the operation of the Mount Pleasant cemetery and burial park.
The construction and opening of the Hillcrest cemetery in 1998 resulted in a decline in recovery rates to less than 60 per cent with a low of 49 per cent in 2005.
“This was due to the increased operational expenses with three cemeteries versus two and the ongoing upkeep and maintenance associated with the two established cemeteries where limited new revenues were collected,” Robson explained.
The City has two options if it wants to improve the current recovery rate for the operation of cemetery facilities in Swift Current. One is to establish a perpetual care fund, which uses income from the sale of lots to assist with future operational expenses.
Another option will be to start selling cemetery items such as concrete foundations, vaults, columbaria, inscriptions and urns. That option was considered when Hillcrest cemetery was developed, but the City decided not to get into competition with local private businesses.

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