City amenities contribute to our sense of community, our property values and our quality of life.
THE COST OF PLYMOUTH'S
Concerns expressed about the City's involvement in a golf course usually center around the price. Yet in many places, such as Edina and Golden Valley, golf is an amenity, no different than rec programs and hockey rinks. So before deciding whether or not golf is too expensive, it's worth looking at how much our amenities actually cost.
The 2018 budget numbers above show that the total Parks and Rec budget is about $10.5 million. Of that, $6.8 million, or 64% is funded by property taxes. For those who are concerned about "losing money" on a golf course, funding via property taxes is simply a nice way to say the same thing. People enjoy the city's amenities. But it's important to judge opportunities on an equal basis, and recognize that the none of the city's amenities are free.
The one amenity that actually does pay for itself is the field house, In 2018 that generated positive income, even after depreciation of $116,000. 10 year plans show new investment of $1.7 million, the positive trend may reverse.
The Ice Center, while a good revenue generator on an operating basis, lost $191,000 in 2018 after depreciation. Planned future expenditures for the ice center are $3.6 million over the next ten years, on average $360,000 per year. So subsidies of the ice center will likely continue.
Parks and forestry costs just over $5 million per year. With little revenue, it's almost entirely funded by property taxes, and costs close to half of the $10.8 million expense. Future expenses are also high. Planned is another $33 million over the next ten years, including $2.4 million for land acquisition, $2.2 million for the greenway, and $5.3 million for a tenth playfield, the total cost of which could hit $15 million.
Recreation, despite earning $1.3 million in program fees, still was subsidized by $644,000 in property taxes, suggesting about a 32% loss. Related to that is the expense of the Plymouth Creek center, which as reported in the 2018 annual report, costs about $650,000 per year, with $440,000 of that coming from property taxes. So today that has about a 68% loss.
And that will certainly get become larger with the new PCC. The expansion will add 82,000 square feet to the facility, which will increase maintenance costs and operating expenses, in addition to the $52 million capital expenditure.
The ongoing cost of a golf course at this point is unknown. And we won't know the price of the property until the council votes on the change to the Comprehensive Plan, since without that change, it can not be used for residential use.
But the point is, that $15 million playfields, $644,000 annual subsidies for recreation programs and $52 million buildings are all amenities for niche audiences that are paid for by the taxpayer. There's no reason to treat golf any differently. We urge the City Council to consider its decision for land use first, and then take up a complete analysis of golf.
WHY SHOULD I PAY FOR SOMETHING I DON'T USE?
The City offers many amenities that are used to varying degrees by its residents. Take the Northwest Greenway, for example. Are the people east of 494 and south of County Rd 9 using the Greenway? Probably not. They’re probably going to French Park or Medicine Lake. How about those on the southwest end of the city? Are they driving north to get on the Greenway? Unlikely. They’re probably walking the Luce Line Trail.
How about Playfields? Plymouth has 9 playfields, and is considering a tenth. Document archives show that playfields cost 14 to 15 million dollars. Yet fewer than 31% of Plymouth households have kids, and not all of those households have kids who play sports. So while Playfields are important assets for our community, only a declining fraction of the population use them, and they're also seasonal, with a lot less usage in the winter. We could make a similar argument for the mass appeal of many of the amenities the city provides.
Whether it's a field house, or recreation programs, or an ice center, a black box theater, or another indoor play space for kids, the nature of living in an amenity rich city is that residents pay for far more amenities than they use. Sometimes these amenities compete with the private sector, but usually they don’t. The City steps in and pools community dollars to buy assets that without municipal support residents would go without.
Having those assets in our city provide an opportunity for recreation, for skill development, for socializing and to create community. That is also the case with golf. While it doesn’t appeal to all residents, none of the city amenities do. Like hockey or baseball, without municipal courses, this great sport won’t be available for most people to learn. Golf has always been part of Plymouth’s green space and recreation plans. Hollydale, as a beautiful outdoor recreation area, adds long term value to Plymouth's portfolio of resident amenities.
As Mark Twain once said, "Buy land. They’re not making it anymore."