Montgomery County Residents Say: “Money for Jobs and Education, Not the Wealthy’s Recreation”

Cesar Garzon

February 19, 2019

(ROCKVILLE, MD) — Montgomery County residents gathered at Woodmont Country Club yesterday to demand an end to tax subsidies given to private country clubs. This was the first of two such protests. The next will be held at Columbia Country Club on Friday, February 22, at 8:00 AM.

The protesters held banners and signs that said “End Tax Breaks for Country Clubs.”

The State of Maryland provides property tax subsidies to country clubs by assessing their property at a rate far below market value when determining clubs’ tax liability. Columbia Country Club, for example, pays less than 25% of what its property tax bill would be if it was taxed at the same rate as homeowners. The Montgomery County state delegation is currently considering bill MC 27-19 which would scale back tax breaks for the largest private golf clubs in the county.

Elissa Laitin, Chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), stated, “Elite country clubs like Woodmont, Columbia, Chevy Chase and Congressional enjoy a property tax break that costs the county $10 million annually. This is outrageous. These are clubs whose members can afford to pay initiation fees of upwards of $90,000 – well more than what a typical worker in the county makes in a year.”

Meanwhile, revenue shortfalls have forced newly-inaugurated Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich to propose painful budgetary cuts to the County government, including $25 million from Montgomery County Public Schools and $3.9 million from Health and Human Services. If country clubs were assessed at standard rates, the County would receive about $10 million in additional tax revenues annually.

Laitin continued, “While MC 27-19 is a good start, this bill doesn’t go far enough. Woodmont and some other clubs are exempted from these bills, which we don’t agree with. We strongly support the bills, but we also want our elected officials to go further. It is unconscionable for the working class to pay more in order to continue subsidizing the golf games of the ruling class.”

Said MoCo DSA Steering Committee member Zach Wiita, “This kind of class privilege is obscene. Public services are being cut, but our government is holding working people and elite country clubs to different standards. A few years ago, the County raised property tax rates on homeowners by almost nine percent, and we’re told we have to live with budget cuts. Meanwhile, private country clubs continue to pay lower taxes, and in some places these tax breaks are used for what can only be described as scams in order to build luxury housing for the rich. Simply put: these giveaways to the elite need to end.”

Laitin warned, “The Maryland General Assembly has a choice: take a step to provide tax fairness and adequate revenue for vital public services, or side with the whims of the one percent. DSA will be watching the vote to see whether Delegates and State Senators take the side of working people or millionaires in Montgomery County.”