Boots & Sabers

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0656, 15 Apr 16

County Board Debates Golf Course

This is a no brainer. There is not reason that taxpayers should own and run a golf course. Even if it might start to turn a profit, it’s not worth having on the books as a liability if it doesn’t turn a profit. Furthermore, the county government has no business running a business in direct competition of private businesses in the county.

Sell it. Move on.

“The arguments against it are very principled,” Schoemann said. “Government should not be in the business because the sport can independently make it on its own. On the other side of the coin now though, we have just paid off, last month, the final debt payments on the course, and now we believe the course will create some profit.”

Schoemann said the Washington County Golf Course is one of the highestrated courses in the area. It first opened in 1997, but the initiative started in 1991 thanks to contributions from several private donors, including Walter Malzahn of West Bend.


0656, 15 April 2016


  1. Kay

    Having played that and other courses in this and other states, ii must be said that course is excellent. It would be a shame if it were to be sold.

  2. Owen

    That’s great, but it still doesn’t justify the taxpayers paying for a golf course – even if it is a good one.

  3. Dave

    If the county has the golf course and it charges greens fees, etc. sufficient to cover all expenses the taxpayer is not being taxed additional and without the profit motive patrons may be able to play golf at more reasonable greens fees than they would otherwise have to pay. If counties shouldn’t be in this recreational business they probably shouldn’t be running parks, beaches, ski trails, etc. That logic carried to the extreme would eliminate such “socialist” activities as roads and public water and sewer. Providing for the common good is a valid and needed function of government.

  4. Owen

    Thanks for pointing out all of these wasteful expenditures. It just goes to illustrate how much fat there really is in even a little county government in Wisconsin.

  5. Dave

    So you would really advocate for no public parks, no public water, no public sewer, no public roads, no public beaches? Only those with the necessary money should benefit from these amenities? What kind of society would that give us?

  6. Owen

    No, Dave. I’m not. You illustrate part of the problem by suggesting that I would advocate doing away with public sewer just because I don’t think the county should run a golf course. Do you really think those are equivalent?

    There is a role to play for the county in setting aside some land (not all of it) for recreational public use, but that role is limited. It does not mean that the county – the taxpayers – should pay for unlimited entertainment options for all comers. And there is a vast difference between entertainment/recreation and true public services like water, sewer, etc.

    In the case of the golf course, the county is running an entertainment venue in direct competition to the 5 or 6 other golf courses in the county. So not only is it silly on its face that it should be the role of government to facilitate golf for county residents, it is pulling revenue that could be going into private industry – and the tax base.

    Yes, I realize the course is self-sufficient at the moment, but it wasn’t always and it won’t always be. If there is a recession that cuts usage, a storm that does major damage, wildfire, etc., it is the taxpayers on the hook for revenue shortfalls. And, as I mentioned, its mere existence means that users are paying fees to support that course instead of paying to play at private courses where their spending generates tax revenue in the form of sales, property, and income taxes. There is an opportunity cost for those green fees.

    Sell the course to someone who will run it and pay property taxes on it. It’s better for the county and better for the taxpayers.

  7. Dave

    “You illustrate part of the problem by suggesting that I would advocate doing away with public sewer just because I don’t think the county should run a golf course. Do you really think those are equivalent?”

    No I don’t think they are equivalent. However, I do think they are comparable. Recently the legislature considered a bill that would allow public utilties to be sold to private entities without a public hearing (a current requirement). Luckily I believe the bill failed to be acted on but there are water and sewer utilities in the state that have been sold to private companies and I believe I read the citizens in those communities pay approximately 20% more for water than communities with public utilities. Actually this source claims the difference is even greater.

    But why wouldn’t it be. The goal of a public utility is to provide the service to its citizens at an affordable cost. The goal of a privately owned utility is to provide the service to the citizens at a maximum profit. These are two very different results from two very different motivations.

    The same holds true for recreational facilities. You say the county should not own the golf course even if it covers it’s costs while, arguably, providing golf to more citizens due to its more reasonable greens fees because doing so cuts into profits of other golf courses.

    That logic can be applied to almost any recreational opportunity provided by local, county, state or national government. How is a municipal golf course different than a municipal swimming pool, a county bike trail or a state or national park. Governments have been providing recreational opportunities for their citizens for well over a century in the belief that these opportunities should be made available to the general public at a cost reasonable to them. You appear to be an advocate for ending government ownership of recreational facilities that benefit the common good. Why would you not also support ending government ownership of the water and sewer utilities? Your party tried to make that easier in the last session.

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