To the editor:
Today Hunterdon County officials will gather at Heron Glen Golf Course, take shovels in hand and dig. It is the perfect metaphor for the fiscally irresponsible decision to further burden property tax payers in Hunterdon for a select few. Heron Glen has cost the taxpayers more than $11 million to build, another $1.27 million in capital improvements and well over $1 million in operating costs. This has only been offset by $4.8 million in revenue through 2015. That is more than $9 million in the red; property taxes taken out of our citizens’ pockets, not for public safety, not for infrastructure, not for essential services for our neediest citizens, but to build a golf business to compete with private businesses in the county.
Given these unassailable facts, a $9 million hole taken from Hunterdon’s property tax payers, the only fiscally responsible choice would be to stop digging. Instead, the County will dig deeper, multi-millions of dollars deeper.
The golf course was to pay for itself. Former Freeholder Frank Fuzo stated, “If a course were set up in Hunterdon, it would be to make it at least self-sufficient, including the capital improvement” (minutes of the August 24, 1992 meeting). Former Freeholder Paul Sauerland agreed, saying “the final decision to make this golf course or not will be how well it pays for itself” (same meeting minutes). More so, the golf course was to be $28 million to the good by now, according to the return on investment schedule in the initial study report. That prognostication was wrong in scope and size in a way that only government can achieve, nearly $40 million off the mark.
The initial decision to build the golf course is somewhat forgivable given the rosy forecast. However, we now know better. We know the course has not returned on its investment, we know golf is a dying sport, declining nearly 20 percent in the last decade alone and we know it is having a direct adverse impact on private courses in the county. But the County will keep digging.
It is not fair to tax every resident more to subsidize golf, a sport for which the free market provides. It is unjust to take the hard-earned money from private business to build a competing business and undercut their market share. There were responsible alternatives, sadly none of those were considered. Instead, it was full speed ahead on building a temple to fiscal irrepsonsbilily and government largesse.
Only fuzzy math, rose colored glasses and blinders can make this white elephant look like a cash cow.
And the County keeps digging.
Hunterdon County Freeholder Rob Walton