Thursday, August 12, 2004

2 years later, ex-candidate challenges Kenton golf costs

By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer

COVINGTON - When he ran for Kenton County Judge-executive two years ago, Democrat Patrick Hughes contended the county's golf courses were losing money.

The county's GOP administration, led by then Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd, disputed Hughes' claims as an election-year ploy.

This week Hughes, quoting figures from a state audit of some county operations, continues to contend the courses lost $134,152 in 2002.

"I raised an important issue in the campaign about the financial condition of the golf courses, and I don't feel like that has been addressed yet," said Hughes, who lost the 2002 race to Murgatroyd.

But once again, county officials say Hughes is misinterpreting financial statements and inaccurately claiming that the three county-owned and operated courses - Pioneer, Willow and Fox Run - are money losers.

"The bottom line is that (Hughes) is not looking at the bottom line," said Deputy Judge-executive Scott Kimmich. Murgatroyd has since left county government to take a position with Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration in Frankfort.

County Treasurer Ivan Frye acknowledged that an "isolated" look at the audit indicates the loss Hughes has mentioned.

"But we didn't lose money," Frye said Wednesday during an interview at the county's administration building in Covington.

Frye said the golf courses produced about $500,000 in revenue - which he also referred to as "operating funds" during 2002 and again in 2003.

The "loss" Hughes is pointing to occurred after operating funds were used to pay off some of the money owed on the golf courses, Frye said.

The financial statements do show a $134,152 loss for 2002.

"We used operating funds to pay debt service," Frye said. "That reduces our net cash."

Hughes said that doesn't explain what he still perceives as a loss.

"I'm not an accountant," said Hughes, a lawyer who practices banking law and formerly worked in the state's Finance Cabinet.

"The fact of the matter is their income did not exceed their total expenses. A profitable business has income in excess of all of its expenses, including debt service.

"That's like me saying if I didn't have to pay my mortgage every month, I would have more money," he said.

Frye said while the golf courses aren't losing money, they aren't set up to necessarily make money, either. They are operated more as a quasi-government service provided to the people of Kenton County.

"Our green fees are kept at a level ... that will pay the operations of the course, pay the debt," Frye said. "But it's also to be able to provide the golf experience to Joe Citizen who can't afford to belong to a country club."


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