Club defends $332k loss

SENIOR management of South Grafton Ex-Servicemen’s Club have defended the club’s $332,000 loss for 2009, following claims it was overspending on renovations.

Ahead of Sunday’s annual general meeting, club president David Savins said the board, which took over when a majority of the previous were voted out in May 2009, had inherited a club which was heading backwards financially.

“The kitchen lost $110,000 in the first six months of last year before it was leased,” Mr Savins said.

An anonymous letter received this week by The Daily Examiner claimed the club was obliged to make a large redundancy payment to former secretary-manager Pat Visner following a dispute.

Mr Savins would not stipulate the amount paid to Mr Visner, saying it was a confidential agreement and that Mr Visner was a ‘very sick man’ who had only been at the club for about half the time of his final two years in the position.

Mr Savins also blamed an accumulation of holiday pay among kitchen staff as an additional contributor to the club’s poor financial performance last year.

“I think one chef was owed about 30 weeks – it was just bad management,” he said.

While acknowledging the club’s poker machine revenue had dropped by 13 per cent and bar sales were down 20 per cent, Mr Savins said the net loss of $332,000 was misleading because there was $290,000 worth of depreciation as part of it.

“If you look at the net cash on operating activities – there’s actually a little profit there of $20,000,” Mr Savins said

This, however, was $206,000 down on the 2008 figure, according to the club’s annual report.

The anonymous letter, which it is claimed was written by one of the club’s 3500 members, also expressed concern the board had refused to send financial statements to members, handing them out only upon request.

It expressed concerns the board was attempting to ‘hide the cause and extent of financial losses from members’.

The club’s secretary-manager, Michael Parker, who was appointed in October last year, said under the Registered Clubs Act, the board was not required to issue annual reports to members unless they requested them.

He said the board had adopted a strategic plan aimed at lifting weaker revenue areas and upgrading neglected areas of the club.

“There has been nothing spent on the club in recent years and the club needs to change with the times,” Mr Parker said.

Mr Savins said the club had undertaken two major loans in recent years, one for the purchase of the butcher shop and $350,000 last year for improvements to the club including a poker machine smoking area ($130,000), new poker machines and upgrades ($140,000), re-upholstered chairs, painting and lighting ($20,000).

He said research showed a smoking area next to poker machines increased poker machine revenue by up to 50 per cent.

He said he was disheartened by the attacks on directors considering the tough position the club was in before the board started and the promising results of the first quarter of 2010.

Sunday’s annual general meeting, Mr Savins said, was purposely scheduled for 9am to prevent the consumption of alcohol before business went ahead.

The move was expected to avoid a repetition of the 2009 annual general meeting in which tempers soared.

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