By ALISSA SCOTT
Against the recommendation of the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Commission, the Common Council decided Tuesday night to lower membership fees by 5 percent for this upcoming season.
The council voted 4-1 to set the rates Tuesday night, with 1st Ward Alderman Edward Russo -- also commission liaison -- casting the lone opposing vote.
"I do not agree with lowering the rates," he said after the meeting. "I think we're going to be losing enough money with the people we lost and they needed to stay where they were. I think the commission had the right idea."
At a commission meeting Monday night, commissioner David Putman said because of a pending court case and regular golfers who have already switched courses, Muni's budget could see a $35,000 deficit.
And that was assuming membership fees stayed the same.
"Based on the golf commission's calculations and assuming a slight loss of players due to the recent controversy, the course will run at a deficit even by keeping the rates the same as last year," Putman said after the meeting. "The reduction adopted by the council will further that deficit."
Putman said they have no idea what the course's fund balance is or whether one even exists.
"This pretty much settles the argument of whether or not taxpayers subsidize the golf course," Putman said. "They will have to."
With the rate adjustment and an assumed 5 percent loss of members, Chairwoman Michele Russo said the course will operate at a net loss of almost $30,000. She hoped the council took their recommendation.
"At this point, we don't know what the decision is that's going to be made by the judge," Russo said. "It would just be in the best interest of everybody to keep the rates the same. Fiscally, it's a prudent decision to make."
The 5 percent cut was proposed by 3rd Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr. He said because the commission did nothing to celebrate the course's 75 anniversary last year, the people still loyal to Muni should be rewarded.
"To show appreciation to the people who kept the place running for 75 years, we should lower the rates accordingly," he said.
It had also been suggested to give those older than 75 a $75 price cut in membership, but that idea was soon shot down.
Golf commission vice chairwoman Pam Ritter attempted to stall the decision until Montgomery County Supreme Court Judge Joseph M. Sise issued a ruling on the pending case, but corporation counsel Gerard DeCusatis said that shouldn't affect it.
Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler said she didn't want to put off setting the rates for another week, as suggest by Barone.
Hatzenbuhler, Barone, 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero and 2nd Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman all voted to approve the rates.
The new rates are as follows: Standard membership, $700; membership for seniors over 62, $675; senior weekday membership, $635; two-person senior family membership, $1,110; two-person family membership, $1,160; junior membership for those 18 years and younger, $150; and young adult membership, $350.