Are Sand Creek Golf Course and the Meridian Center a big drain on city finance and taxpayers? Some people at the city commission candidate forum last week in Newton seemed to think so. Numbers from the city's budget say otherwise however.
According to city numbers, the Golf Course is breaking even and the Meridian Center pays for 75 percent of its operating cost. There is debt service, but even that is not a major part of the city's budget.
Assistant city manager Tim Johnson said Tuesday the city government is there to provide services.
"Those services cost money," he said.
Johnson said the golf course and the Meridian Center are two services the city provides, and it provides them because it is what the majority of citizens want.
He said it is true that these two facilities cost money, it is also true that the library, police, fire and all other services also cost the city money. They all "lose" money in the sense that more is spent than is taken in.
But the Meridian Center and the Sand Creek Station go further in paying for themselves than many other services the city offers.
Johnson said the Library costs $1 million yearly to operate and there is no charge for citizens to use that facility. He said the Sand Creek Golf Course actually broke even last year, with $1.6 million in expenses and $1.6 million in revenue.
There is debt service, which is paying for building the golf course itself. Property taxes on houses built in the area are paying a large?amount of that.
He noted parks, for instance, also cost a lot to operate, but do not bring in any money at all because they are used without cost.?The Meridian Center is not breaking even as much as the golf course is, but it is still a service the citizens wanted.
The debt service there is paid for as part of a Tax Increment Finance District, meaning the debt for building the facility is paid for by the property taxes on hotels and other businesses in the immediate area.
The operating cost of the Meridian Center is paid for by a combination of sales tax revenues and the city's general fund. However, as sales taxes increase, more of that facility will be covered without city money.
Johnson said the city ends up paying only about 25 percent of the Meridian Center's cost.
There were 240 events at the center last year. Johnson said many of those events would not have been held if the city had not helped build the center.
"We should be celebrating this," he said. "Other facilities or services don't cover their own costs."
Some of thee sales tax that supports the Meridian Center comes from Newton people. He noted that a large percentage is also paid by people visiting the city while attending an event at the center.
The events at the Meridian Center also bring in residual income to the city as people shop at various places.
"You do have to have a proper perspective," Johnson said. "The term subsidize isn't fair. We provide services and those services cost."
The bottom line is the Sand Creek Golf Course is breaking even. The Meridian Center is costing the city, but it is also bringing in income and is doing what it was intended to do, Johnson said.