The Rancho Murieta Country Club board of directors opened a series of six meetings Tuesday, asking members to address the club’s budget woes by approving a special assessment through 2013.
The proposal, which goes to a member vote this month, calls for every member to pay an annual assessment equivalent to one month’s dues for each of the next four years. This year’s assessment would be billed half in April and half in May. The following years’ assessments would be billed monthly.
The Women's Golf Club was invited to the session, and more than 60 people attended. They saw a 40-minute presentation by club directors and the general manager, followed by 40 minutes of questions from the audience.
A slide outlined the dollar impact of assessments this year and next year on various classes of members:
- Golf members: Two payments totaling $387 this spring and $32 a month next year
- Legacy members: Two payments totaling $352 this spring and $29 a month next year
- Sport Social members: Two payments totaling $274 this spring and $23 a month next year
- Junior Executive members: Two payments totaling $282 this spring and $24 a month next year
- House members: Two payments totaling $69 this spring and $6 a month next year
Ballots will be mailed Friday to Golf, Legacy and Charter members, the “equity” classes of membership. Under the club's bylaws, they are the only members who get to vote.
Ballots are due back by March 20, and 271 votes, a quorum of members, is required for the assessment to pass. That's 40 percent of eligible members.
Vince Lepera, the board president, opened the meeting by quashing rumors that have circulated recently. The club is not filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, he said; the South Course is not closing and neither is the Parasol Room, and the club is not proposing assessments of thousands of dollars per member.
He and other speakers said the club’s situation is due to the overall economy and the club’s move away from an initiation fee for new members. Despite eliminating that fee, the club’s membership numbers have still dropped, reducing dues revenue. Clubs nationally are having similar problems.
Lepera said development isn’t expected to resume in the community before 2017, so there won’t be the possibility of an influx of new Murietans into the club. On the expense side, he pointed to the need to continue course restorations begun last year and a federal requirement to replace radio-controlled irrigation systems by 2013 at a cost of $275,000.
If the club ever ceased to exist, he said, Rancho Murieta would be facing a multimillion-dollar bill to handle its wastewater, which at present is treated by the Community Services District and used to irrigate the courses.
One of the presentation slides showed a comparison of monthly dues at nine area clubs. Rancho Murieta Country Club’s dues were the second-lowest.
General Manager Stan Korich spoke in general terms about possible impacts if the assessment is rejected. He said every department would experience deeper cuts, and course renovation and equipment replacement would be halted. The pro shop, snack bar and driving range all would be cut back, along with entertainment at the club, he said. In all, he said, the "private club experience" would be lessened.
A handful of statements at the meeting drew applause:
- Lepera told the audience, “The quality of the (club’s) food has in fact improved.” (Applause.) And later, “The golf courses have in fact improved over the last year and a half.” (Applause.)
- An audience member said the Pro Shop’s selection of women’s golf clothes causes many members to spend “a hell of a lot of money” at North Ridge Country Club. (Applause.) Director Tom Lewandowski answered that the Pro Shop here will address this: “We should have access to the same quality and brands as they (North Ridge) do.” (Applause.)
- A member said, “There’s no place on God’s Earth as beautiful as this community and the people who live here.” (Applause.)
Lepera said the same presentation and information will be offered at each meeting, and all of the documents will be available on the club’s web site after the meetings conclude.
Here’s the schedule for the remainder of the sessions. If you’re not able to attend when your group is invited, the club asks that you attend one of the sessions for all members.
3 p.m. Wednesday -- Senior Men’s Club
3 p.m. Thursday -- Niners and Senior Women’s clubs
6:30 Thursday -- Men’s Club
6:30 p.m. Friday -- All members
3 p.m. Saturday -- All members