NAUGATUCK — A round of golf at Hop Brook Golf Course will cost more this year as the fees have been raised in response to a budget shortfall of $60,000 last year.
The new fees will increase daily play by $1 and annual membership for in-town residents by $60. Public Works Director James Stewart estimated the fee increases would raise an extra $30,000.
“It’s a starting point,” Stewart said.
Golf Commission Chair Pat Corbett felt the $60,000 budget shortfall isn’t a fair characterization.
“To me, when they come up with this $60,000 we’re in the red, we have a hard time understanding where that’s coming from,” Corbett said.
Since the golf course runs on a calendar year budget, whereas the town budget begins and ends in the middle of the golf season, Corbett said the budget gets skewed.
“We were kind of taken by surprise when they said you guys aren’t being self-sufficient here,” Corbett said.
The borough allotted the course a budget of about $395,000 in the 2010-11 fiscal year and the same for the 2011-12 fiscal year. The course brought in about $456,000 in the 2010 calendar year and $435,000 from course fees in the 2011 calendar year, Corbett said.
“It’s kind of irresponsible for folks to be running that number around,” Corbett said.
However, once the costs of employee pensions, insurance and other benefits are factored in, which aren’t covered under the budget, the course lost $60,000 in the 2010 fiscal year.
Corbett said he hopes the increased fees will cut back on the shortfall. He estimated a bigger impact than Stewart’s estimate, anywhere between $38,000 and $47,000 in additional revenues, depending on how many people play.
Corbett said how much the course brings in depends on several factors, including the economy and the weather. Last summer, heavy rains kept players away much of the time, accounting for some of the $21,000 decrease from the prior year.
The higher fees come after concerns were raised over the course’s finances last year by the Joint Boards of the Board of Mayor and Burgess and Finance Boards.
“I do think that the Golf Commission’s work represents a step in the right direction and a sincere desire on the commission’s part to be responsive to the Joint Boards concerns,” Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo said.
Corbett said the commission came up with the new fees after taking input from course members and looking at the fees of other public courses in the area. He said the new fees fall in line with Tashue Golf Course in Trumbull.
“People are going to look at our prices if they’re too high and they’re going to go somewhere else,” Corbett said.
Borough residents will now pay $520 for an annual golf course membership, while teens and seniors will still pay $360. Out-of-towners pay $860, while teens and seniors from other towns pay $660.
In addition to the increased rates, Naugatuck residents will have to purchase a $20 identification badge, which will track when they play. The price for the badge will be included in the price of a season pass. The new identification badge will help the golf course track how many rounds are being played by whom and what times the course is busiest.
Corbett estimated that about 80 percent of Hop Brook’s players live in town and over 60 percent of them are senior citizens, but the new card will give the course more exact figures.
“I think its going to make for a much more efficient golf course,” Corbett said.
Corbett said the data will help inform the commission as it prepares the following year’s budget and decides whether to raise fees again. He added the course could use the information to send out promotions to attract more people in the slow times.
“This isn’t just like a shoot from the hip. We look at this every single year,” Corbett said. “We really think this is gong to help us make those decisions a little bit easier. No one really loves raising fees, but sometimes it’s just inevitable.”
Because of the mild weather this winter, Hop Brook is going to try to open March 1, about a month and a half earlier than usual. The course will be open Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until dusk.
“We’re going to run a special just to get people there. … By opening that five weeks or six weeks early we figured we can get into that market right now.”
Corbett said other golf courses have been open all winter.
“We might as well get some of these guys back to Naugatuck,” he said.