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Thu, Aug. 22

City mulls rate hike for Antelope Hills

PRESCOTT - Over the past two decades, local golfers have watched the cost of play at the city's Antelope Hills Golf Course more than triple, and now another rate increase is in the works.

Even so, city officials say the municipal golf course still offers the best value around, when compared with other courses in the area.

The issue came up during the Prescott City Council's study session on Tuesday, when Administrative Services Director Mic Fenech presented a rate hike plan to the council.

The proposal includes a number of changes, including:

• An increase from $25 to $27 for Yavapai County residents during the weekdays year-around, and on the weekends between Nov. 1 and April 30.

• An increase from $30 to $32 for county residents on the weekends between May 1 and Oct. 31.

• An increase from $40 to $45 for non-county residents.

• A $1 increase - from $13 to $14 - for cart fees.

• An increase from $18 to $20 for the senior (older-than-60) discount rate after noon on Tuesdays. Under the change, the rate, which includes 18 holes of golf and a cart, would be in effect year-around after noon, Monday through Thursday, and seven days a week from November through April.

• The elimination of the punch card, which currently offers golfers a discount for pre-paying multiple rounds of golf. Instead, Antelope Hills would offer a $150 discount card that would be good for $5 off future rounds of golf.

• A resolution giving city staff the authority to increase green fees annually by $1 per round.

City records show that Antelope Hills' rates have been on a continual climb in the past 20 years or so. Back in 1986, for instance, the course charged $7.50 per round. Through the years, that rate has increased gradually by a dollar or two every few years. Most recently, the city increased rates by about $3 per round in 2005.

Fenech attributed the latest increase to skyrocketing costs for necessary items such as fuel and fertilizer. A city memo showed that gas has increased by 81 percent since 2005, while fertilizer has increased 65 percent.

That led council members to ask why the golf course is not asking for more extensive rate increases.

"When I look at the increasing costs, and then see the small rate increase, it doesn't quite balance out," Councilwoman Mary Ann Suttles said.

Councilman Jim Lamerson added that he initially had "an absolute conniption fit" when he noticed the same comparison, but later realized that a number of other factors play a role as well as the volatile gas-related items.

Fenech agreed, pointing out that while gas and fertilizer are major expenses for the golf course, the more stable employee costs actually make up the bulk of the budget.

And to help the golf course deal with its escalating costs and growing debt, the city is proposing the $1-per-year rate increase for rounds of golf.

City Manager Steve Norwood noted that as long as the golf course owes money (currently about $1 million) to the city's general fund, the staff likely would exercise that authority to increase rates each year.

Most council members appeared to support the proposal, and the changes got the endorsement of the local Golf Course Advisory Committee.

The rate increase will be back on the council agenda for a possible vote on April 8.

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