Golf, Another Privatization Possibility

Did you know that Albuquerque taxpayers are subsidizing golfers? Taxpayers of Albuquerque, the major city with the highest property tax burden (check pages 3 and 4) in New Mexico, are paying for General Obligation bonds to install a new, $1.5 million irrigation system at Ladera Golf Course Taxpayers are paying an additional $500,000 for other city golf courses (according to an article on page 9 of this publication). This, despite the fact that city golf courses are supposed to be operated as an “enterprise” within the city budget.

The problem is that greens crews at Ladera and the other municipal golf courses in Albuquerque (Arroyo del Oso, Los Altos, and Puerto del Sol) all hire highly-paid, unionized city workers (read the article at the top of page 21 of this publication). Worse, at least at Ladera, the unionized grounds keepers (making $18 to $20 to cut grass) have repeatedly damaged the golf course, making it less playable and, perhaps even resulting in costly repairs.

I just wrote about the need for government efficiency and specifically mentioned golf courses as an area of improvement through privatization. Perhaps Albuquerque could take a lesson (just this one time) from Detroit, where the city has privatized golf course management and actually earned $250,000 annually on its golf courses rather than asking overburdened taxpayers for ever-more. With workers paid at private rates and more flexible work rules, I’ll bet Albuquerque’s golf courses, located in a far better climate than Detroit’s, could turn a profit and become truly first-class courses as well.