The Santa Barbara City Council voted 4-to-3 to privatize the greens maintenance at the Santa Barbara Municipal Golf Course in hopes of saving $200,000 a year. Like golf courses everywhere, Santa Barbara’s has experienced a decline in rounds played, requiring course managers to dip into reserves over the past several years to cover costs.
Leading the vote was councilmember Dale Francisco. He argued without steps, the golf course — set up to be financially self-sustaining — would require subsidies from the General Fund. The deciding vote, however, was cast by councilmember Bendy White, who in previous deliberations had supported a compromise plan in which other cost-cutting and revenue-generating strategies would be pursued.
Currently, 11 City Hall employees care for the Muni greens. Councilmembers Gregg Hart and Cathy Murillo, both strong supporters of public employee unions, sought to protect those jobs and argued in favor of alternative solutions. (More than $100,00 a year could be saved by refinancing the golf course’s debt; by doubling the amount spent on marketing, it was hoped new golfers could be drawn to the public course.)
Murillo had expressed concern that “solid middle class jobs” would be replaced with minimum — or minimal — wage positions. In response, the council stipulated the new contractor would have to pay a living wage, meaning at least $16 an hour.