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JLF: City Should Sell Golf Course

Mooresville has lost nearly $450,000 in last five years on city course

Dec. 19th, 2006
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RALEIGH — Mooresville should cut its losses and sell a city golf course that has lost nearly $450,000 in the last five years, recommends new John Locke Foundation Spotlight report.

The recommendation is similar to one made in a Spotlight Report in October regarding the Sanford Municipal Golf Course.

“Unlike police and fire protection, golf is not an essential city service,” said Dr. Michael Sanera, JLF research director and local government analyst. “If the city sold its course, taxpayers would gain the amount of the sale. They would also avoid paying average losses of $90,000 a year. As a privately owned operation, the course would start contributing to the city and county tax base.”

The city owned-and-operated golf course does more than drain tax dollars, Sanera said. He and coauthor Michael Moore, a JLF research intern, found that Mooresville’s course uses tax dollars to compete unfairly with six private golf courses in the county and 12 more courses in the surrounding area.

“Imagine how you’d feel if you owned a sporting goods store and were being made to support a city-owned sporting goods store that offered lower prices because it received $90,000 per year in tax subsidies,” Sanera said. “Unlike the city-owned course, private golf courses contribute to the local government by paying city and county taxes.”

Mooresville’s problem extends to any local government that owns a golf course, Sanera said. “Should the city focus on police and fire protection and improving the streets, or should it pay for the recreational activities of a small minority of golfers?” he asked.

“Think of it this way: What would happen if the mayor suggested that the city devote 140 acres of city land and spend nearly $90,000 per year for a polo field that benefits a small number of polo players?” Sanera said. “I don’t think he would be re-elected. But the mayor and city council are doing just that for the golfers of Mooresville.”

Selling the golf course could have a major impact on the city’s bottom line, Sanera said. “Mooresville bills itself as Race City, but the city could call itself Golf City after losing $450,000 in five years for an unnecessary city-owned golf course,” he said. “That’s enough money to buy every Mooresville resident over 15 years of age a $30 ticket to a NASCAR race.”

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