Why Montgomery County Should Repeal Its Tax Breaks for Country Clubs

The Montgomery County Young Democrats (MCYD) are involved in politics for many different reasons. Here Michael DeLong, MCYD President, writes about country clubs in Montgomery County, how they receive large property tax breaks, and why these tax breaks are harmful and should be repealed. 

One of the issues that we Montgomery County Young Democrats care about is fairness and ensuring that our schools and services are well funded. Montgomery County is home to a great many people and businesses, from Bethesda to Silver Spring to Gaithersburg. What many people don’t know is that our county hosts fifteen golf courses and country clubs-and that these clubs get a massive property tax break.

Currently Maryland’s State Department of Assessments and Taxation assesses land owned by country clubs and gold courses at $1,000 per acre. They do this because of agreements signed with the country clubs, and this is under a fifty year old law intended to discourage development of open spaces. What this actually means that the country clubs pay property taxes on only a small amount of their land’s actual value. The actual market rate assessments for these country clubs range from $12,500 per acre to $1.1 million per acre!

Essentially, while homeowners, businesses, and other people are paying property taxes to fund schools, health care, parks, and other county priorities, wealthy country clubs have a huge tax break, and are not paying their fair share. And these clubs are very well off. For some of the clubs, member initiation fees can be over $75,000! To give just a few examples, Manor Country Club near Rockville has a property value of $5.1 million, Chevy Chase Country Club’s property value is $8.3 million, and Woodmont Country Club is valued at $15.5 million!

Getting rid of these unfair tax breaks for wealthy country clubs would yield an additional $10 million in annual property taxes for the county, which could be used to fund better county services and promote economic opportunity. For the past few years, Delegate David Moon has introduced bills to eliminate this giveaway. Last year he remarked that “this country club tax break deal is probably the most glaring and obvious example of unfair tax policy.”

Moon is right. And this year, Montgomery County faces a budget shortfall of $99.8 million, driven in part by stagnating property and income tax revenues! Repealing the property tax break for country clubs would help fill that gap and reduce budget cuts. Recently I was part of a protest in front of Columbia Country Club (valued at $7.1 million) to draw attention to this issue and urge that the tax break be revoked.

Budgets are moral documents. And at a time when budget cuts will hurt the county’s least fortunate, rich country clubs should pay their fair share to ensure that Montgomery County is a good place to live for all its residents.