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Eaglecrest takes big bite out of negative fund balance

Seeks to steer budget reserve back into the black

Posted: July 29, 2012 - 12:07am

Eaglecrest’s general manager presented a sunny report on the ski area’s finances to its board of directors Thursday evening, reporting Eaglecrest should be able to make a larger-than-expected contribution to its budget reserve.

Going into detail Friday, Matt Lillard said that an expected $206,815 Eaglecrest fund contribution for fiscal year 2012 would be the ski area’s largest in years — more than half as much as the $131,200 payment in FY11.

“I was expecting the (FY12) fund contribution to be around the tune of $150,000,” Lillard said.

Lillard said weather played a big role this year in driving business at Eaglecrest.

“It was a great year from the standpoint of we had a lot of early snow … and finished off with a strong March and April with a lot of sunshine,” Lillard said.

Of course, weather conditions are out of Eaglecrest’s power to control. But Lillard said Eaglecrest’s efforts to bring newcomers up to the mountain, including opening the Porcupine chairlift in 2010, have paid off as well.

“There’s the continued emphasis on our learning programs and getting more people up to learn the sports of skiing and snowboarding,” said Lillard. “That’s really our avenue for growth.”

Eaglecrest saw its budget reserve go negative in FY03, when lackluster snowfall led to its worst annual losses to date. Business continued to limp along in subsequent seasons, with the fund balance cratering in FY06 to about -$880,000.

Lillard said that Eaglecrest is back on track and is recovering from that string of losses.

“We’ve been chipping away at it ever since and really turned the corner on Eaglecrest,” Lillard said.

With the $206,815 contribution factored in, the FY12 projection anticipates a fund balance of -$282,299.

“Ideally, you want that to be a positive number, and we’re hoping we can get there in a year or two,” Lillard added.

Assembly Member Karen Crane, the Finance Committee chairwoman and Assembly liaison to Eaglecrest, said the ski area has been “very conscientious” about trying to pay back what it owes to close the deficit.

“If they continue to have the same kind of snow seasons that they’ve had lately, it should be paid off very shortly,” said Crane. “If we have another year or two where it’s a dry year, it’s going to take a little longer. So part of it is weather-dependent.”

Eaglecrest’s cost recovery in FY12 was 72.6 percent, according to Lillard, exceeding its annual goal of 70 percent cost recovery.

Lillard concluded, “You can have really good years and really bad years, and this was a really good year.”

The Thursday meeting in City Hall at which Lillard presented his report was also the first outing for new board members Carlton Heine, Alexis Howard and Bruce Garrison. They were appointed by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly last month to replace Steve Handy, Barbara Murray and Norman Gorsuch.

“The new board members were active last night and asking questions,” Crane said. “I think they’re going to be really good additions to the board.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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