The public usually applauds its leaders when they vote for or against an important issue. But last night, the Rye Golf Club Commission received applause for not voting at all.
After discussing a summary of the approximately $6 million Rye Golf Club budget proposal for next year and hearing from members and residents, none of the club’s commissioners made a motion to vote on it Tuesday night during a special meeting held at Whitby Castle. The vote was delayed to the next commission meeting set for Oct. 26.
Under the proposed budget, the Golf Club would be closed in Jan. and Feb.; use primarily seasonal city staffing rather than a contracted staffing agency; allow for no new capital projects; and membership rates would stay the same. The commission had called Tuesday’s special meeting to discuss and vote on the 2013 budget because the city manager had requested it from the club's general manager Scott Yandrasevich by Oct. 10, according to Yandrasevich.
The Rye Golf Club was set up as an enterprise fund in 1965, which means it is a city owned property that is self-sustaining, not subsidized by tax payers. The RGC Commission must approve its budget before the Rye City Council votes on it at the end of the year.
The commission has until December to continue to make changes to the proposal before it is officially approved by the city and the commission, commissioner Pat Geoghegan said during the meeting.
Commission members requested more detailed line items from the general manager. Geoghegan asked the manger to break down operating costs and revenue by the various sections of the club (pool, golf and restaurant) to see where operations may need to be changed. Commissioner John Duffy and others were concerned about what FICA, workers compensation and unemployment would cost.
Yandrasevich and the acting commission chair for Tuesday evening, Frank Adimari provided some additional information on what was covered by "miscellaneous expenses," workers comp, seasonal staffing and other concerns, but the commissioners and members wanted more.
Duffy said he did not have enough information to vote.
“I have problems with this budget…I need more numbers,” Duffy said.
Yandrasevich said the projection for the 2012 budget was a $170,000 to $200,000 deficit, which was better than the $500,000 they had anticipated, he said.
The 2013 budget proposes using seasonal staff, which would cost about $800,000, and a significant decrease in contractual staffing that would cut about $900,000 in expenses, according to the discussion Tuesday night.
The proposal was formed in anticipation that the club would not lose members next year, said Adimari. He added that the club has already recruited eight new members for next year as well.
About 25 club members attended the meeting and many asked similar questions regarding how staffing is handled at Rye Golf Club, specifically how RM Staffing was handled and how much that company cost the club in recent years.
Commission members repeatedly told the crowd they were only there to discuss the 2013 budget and would not discuss the controversial RM Staffing agreements recently covered in the press.
The club members persisted, asking how a 2013 budget could be proposed without a clear understanding of the contracted staffing history and what seasonal staff would cost in relation.
Yandrasevich created a schedule for employees in every area to calculate the cost of seasonal staffing, something they had considered doing since the start of the budget process, he said.
City Councilman Joe Sack attended the meeting and raised the same issues. Sack first started asking Rye's city manager about RM Staffing in July and has said his attempts to retrieve information have been thwarted.
“Why such a tectonic shift in the budget?” he asked of the plan to replace contracted staff with city seasonal staff, and save $100,000. He asked if contractual staffing was causing the problem or if it was just RM Staffing that was causing unnecessary expense, asking if the change was a “knee jerk reaction.”
Yandrasevich said that it was not a knee-jerk reaction, but a “responsive reaction” to current conversations.
Commission members and the crowd requested information on how FICA, unemployment and unknown costs related to seasonal staffing would cost.
Several members raised questions about overtime costs. Documents that club member Leon Sculti has published online show seemingly gratuitous overtime costs and raises as high as 140 percent in one year for some employees. Again, the commission would not discuss RM Staffing, but said seasonal city employees do not work overtime.
Commissioner Patrick Dooley explained that the budget proposal was a starting point that could be changed. The commission will consider different management options for Whitby Castle, which members said was "bleeding the club." They will consider everything from shutting it down, to catering to renting, Dooley told the crowd. They will issue RFPs and ask for member feedback.
Just before Adimari asked for a motion to vote on the proposed budget, one club member who had already addressed the commission, spoke again:
“We don’t want to divide the community or the town...The Commission can’t comprehensively explain how this place works. You owe the membership an explanation about how this place operates.”
All commissioners then declined to motion for a vote.
Adimari and Yandrasevich said they would provide answers to all of the audiences questions regarding RM Staffing costs and other budget line items over the next few weeks.
The commission plans to reconvene on Oct. 26 to vote on its budget, which will then be submitted to City Hall.
What do you want to see at the Rye Golf Club next year? Tell us in the comments.