At a recent public meeting about the BREC golf program, the National Golf Foundation consultant opened discussion with this question: whether those present wanted BREC golf to be run on a self-sustaining business model or as a recreational amenity like other BREC activities. Most by far raised their hands for the latter. Another show of hands showed that almost everyone voting was a golfer. Most of these had probably read that BREC golf is now operating at a loss of almost $1 million a year. The comments that followed were mostly requests for improvements in facilities and maintenance, almost all of which sounded likely to cost even more money.
One golfer asked where this idea came from that the golf program should be self-sustaining. The consultant suggested that about two thirds of public golf programs do at least sustain themselves, but he didn’t mention the more likely source, the often popular political idea of reducing or privatizing government services rather than raising taxes. As The Advocate reported on May 16, 2013, “State general fund support for Louisiana’s public colleges and universities has been cut more than 80 percent since the 2007-2008 fiscal year. Louisiana’s youth services have been cut 40 percent, Veterans’ Affairs has been cut 69 percent and the Department of Environmental Quality has had a 96 percent cut.”
I don’t mind paying taxes for valuable public services like these and even for those like golf that I don’t use myself —I have neighbors and friends who play. But I appreciated BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight’s closing reminder that the costs of BREC golf have to be balanced somehow with the rest of a larger BREC budget. Personally, I hope BREC will make more and safer spaces for walkers, runners and bikers. I also hope we won’t keep expecting other valuable public services like higher education, youth services, Veterans Affairs and DEQ to be run on a self-sustaining business model.