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GRT is up in Elephant Butte, but Sierra del Rio Golf Course requires greater public subsidy

by Kathleen Sloan | April 26, 2021
2 min read
The course's management company is responsible for all operating costs; the additional subsidy is for unbudgeted repairs. Source: Google

Elephant Butte’s financial well-being depends on turning around the Sierra del Rio Golf Course from a major expense to a break-even enterprise that does not pose a drag on the city’s General Fund.

The trendlines are headed in the wrong direction, the Elephant City Council learned at its April 21 meeting. Councilors approved a budget adjustment that added about $111,000 to the $200,000 already allocated in the General Fund to support the golf course this fiscal year.

In 2018, Elephant Butte accepted ownership of the floundering 18-hole course, clubhouse, restaurant and pro shop, spending about $600,000 to prevent the facility from closing. This subsidy was offset by the sale of the club’s liquor license for $300,000.

In 2019, the course’s subsidy was about $400,000.

Last year, the city signed a five-year management contract with Spirit Golf, agreeing to pay the company a fee of $200,000 to operate Sierra del Rio for the 2020–2021 fiscal year, which ends June 30. The contract places responsibility for all operating costs on Spirit Golf.

The city did not, however, budget for repairs. City Councilor Mike Williams, who managed Sierra del Rio before it was donated to the city, said this year’s additional $111,000 subsidy will pay for two air conditioning units for the clubhouse, repairs to the patio and an air vent in the kitchen. The city replaced nearly a dozen bridges spanning ditches too deep for golf carts to cross when it took over the golf course, Williams said, but it used untreated wood. Those bridges need to be replaced again, accounting for the rest of the $111,000 expense.

But not all the golf course news is bad. “We’re incredibly pleased with the public response,” Richard Holcomb, a Spirit Golf partner, said. “People are coming from all over the state and Colorado and Arizona. It would be a lot better, of course, without COVID, but we’re very happy to have helped the city increase its GRT.”

Partially due to increased play at the golf course, as well as meals and drinks served there, the city’s gross receipts taxes are up.

City Clerk Rani Bush submitted a GRT revenue comparison of the last four years to city council. Elephant Butte has taken in more GRT revenue this fiscal year—with three months to go—than it did in all of fiscal year 2018-2019.

The city’s GRT revenue for 2017-2018 was $433,169. In 2018-2019, the GRT revenue was $362,099. The 2019-2020 GRT revenue was $403,240. So far this fiscal year the GRT revenue is $362,547.  

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at kathleen.sloan@gmail.com or 575-297-4146.
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Third day on the job, Swingle brings transparency and reality to T or C’s budgeting process, Parts 1 and 2

In addition to contending with a $1.6 million deficit in the fiscal year 2021-2022 draft budget, new city manager Bruce Swingle informed the city commissioners that they must play a lead role in identifying departmental spending priorities and cuts and devising a plan within two years to end the practice of balancing the budget with transfers from utility fees.

Peter A. Lawton (T or C) commented on Part 1: It is nice to see there finally seems to be an adult in charge in our city. Great article!

Barb Dewell (T or C) commented on Part 2: I’m really surprised so much is going on in T or C that the commissioners don’t know anything about. It’s very disappointing. They don’t even appear to want to ask questions. It seems reports are made, Luna makes her comments, no one else has a question or comment, and the issue either goes the way Commissioner Luna wants or it’s tabled, I guess. This isn’t how our city should be run. Thank goodness for City Manager Swingle. I hope he is able to corral all this spending and these very loose approvals and get the city finances back on track. I know most residents are really worried about all this, as I’ve been, and we have high hopes for City Manager Swingle’s leadership.

Ronn Fenn (T or C) commented on Part 2: For a long time I’ve been questioning why this airport is a T or C-funded facility and not a county facility with its location about five miles from the recognized city proper and serving a largely non-resident user base. It and its annual transfer funds to support its operation needs to be investigated. This facility is not and probably never will be an income-producing asset. Its operating costs should be spread throughout the county and not borne solely by T or C’s residents. Pie in the Sky is not likely to land in T or C.

Lydia Dixon (T or C) commented on Part 2: This is great reporting. People would not know most of this if it were not published here. Thanks!



Welcome, Bruce!

Now that you’ve had a couple days to settle in as city manager, please consider implementing these 10 doable fixes that will make the governance of the City of Truth or Consequences more transparent, responsive and effective.

Reader Joey Perry (T or C) commented: Great suggestions. Here’s one more. Make the meeting agendas more informational. In addition to the ordinance number, include a sentence or two (in plain English) saying what the item is about and why it is on the agenda—e.g., what is the issue? This would help me decide if I want to attend a meeting, or write a letter to the manager or the commissioners, expressing my views ahead of the meeting.


Elephant Butte gives Spirit Golf a five-year management contract with easy-out termination
by Kathleen Sloan | February 20, 2020

​It took about six months, but the City of Elephant Butte has signed a deal with a firm specializing in golf course management and marketing…

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