Morrison Looking at Private Club Property Tax Issue

State senator is researching legislative action to require private golf clubs to pay real estate tax on their improvements. Patch poll shows overwhelming support for lawmaking.

State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) has decided to look at ways the Illinois General Assembly can require private golf clubs to pay property taxes on their improved real estate after learning of litigation winding its way through the court system which would allow an exemption.

The issue came to light Jan. 30 when Patch published a story describing legal action brought by the Onwentsia Club of Lake Forest contending since its golf course is open land exempt from property taxes, its buildings like its club house should not be assessed either.

Earlier: Should Legislature Require Taxes From Golf Clubs

Since taxing authorities like school and park districts which rely on the revenue would have to either reduce their revenue or increase the share paid by the other members of the community. “Somebody will have to pick up this money,” Ela Township Assessor John Barrington said. “It doesn’t go away; it just gets redistributed.” 

Morrison, whose district contains numerous private clubs including 10 in Highland Park, Deerfield, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, was unaware of the case until recently. She then decided to consider legislation which could nullify a court ruling.

“I have given this to legal and asked them to look into it and give me some options,” Morrison said.

Patch published a poll Monday asking readers to voice their opinion on the issue. Of the 28 people responding, 23 would like to see the legislature take action and five are content to leave it to the courts.

One reader, J.J. Wheeler, is all for not taxing the golf course lands for he agrees with the majority on the buildings. He wants to see the clubs stay right where they are.

“We do not want these clubs be to bulldozed and turned into future development,” Wheeler writes. “That will bring a whole host of problems. But country clubs who own this land are now allowed to build clubhouses, temporary residences, banquet halls and other improvements to this "open space" should be taxed fairly and proportionally on those buildings.”

In addition to Onwentsia, the other clubs which could potentially receive a benefit are Shoreacres and Knollwood in Lake Bluff, Conway Farms in Lake Forest, Briarwood in Deerfield and Ravinia Green in Riverwoods along with Old Elm, Exmoor, Bob O’Link and Northmoor in Highland Park.

State Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood), whose district also includes all of Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Highland Park and Deerfield did not return calls to Patch before the deadline for this story.

William d Brown February 08, 2013 at 12:54 PM
6:34 am on Friday, February 8, 2013 J Wheeler is dead wrong and his fear mongering is typical of the multiple reasons to give the wealthy more welfare One wonders what club he is a member of ? It is not reported If Wheeler is a member of a club or is a paid apologist for clubs. . The 2% of the USA are the real welfare queens. The clubs contribute NOTHING to the good of the community.
Gary February 08, 2013 at 03:22 PM
Hi Julie, We've met before. I am the Friedman supporter who spent 5 hours with you in the cold outside the polling place on election day. We had a pleasant discussion. It was so civil that I remember a woman with a young daughter stopping and pointing out to her daughter how nice we were being to each other even though we were from different political parties. Scott Drury joined us later and when it came time to leave I shook both your hands and said: "If you manage to get elected, vote like you want your children to live in Illinois." Do you want your children to live in a failing state where the only way to satisfy unsustainable pension promises is to divide people through class warfare so you can justify converting assets of the rich into pension payments? That's what the current proposal to dump the pension liabilities on the suburbs will do. Your children would be crazy to stay in a state where success is targeted instead of celebrated. You will have to fight the unions. Their weak point is that they have cheated the public for decades using salary spiking at the end of their careers to boost their pensions beyond what they deserve... for the rest of their lives. They can not claim to have earned this extra pension money, and the FIRST bargaining position should be that the cheating be undone and every existing pension be adjusted to match what they would have received without the salary spiking scam. Let's start there.
marco sangria February 08, 2013 at 03:26 PM
wm brown sounds like sour grapes. Our legislators should be concerned with how we spend money instead of finding new ways to take money. Its that simple. it would be interesting to see what the membership of these clubs give to charity. I have a strong feeling that they support their communites in a more philanthropic way then the average non club member. Club houses are not residences. Do we tax barns because they are on farm land?
GHK February 08, 2013 at 03:30 PM
The clubs do add to the tax base when you consider the homes around a golf course are more valuable than the same house in a regular neighborhood. As such, the surrounding homes pay higher taxes. Onwentsia has a lot of nerve trying to avoid paying taxes on the value of their clubhouse. I always thought the golf course was taxed as farm land and the remainder was taxed as improved property.
Jim February 08, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Mr Brown, Aside from voicing his opinion that he would prefer to not see the clubs bulldozed I see no eveidence of FEAR MONGERING JW's reply. He simply states an opinion. But more importantly, I take issue with your comment that clubs contribute NOTHING to the comunity. Jobs for many, a place where families can come together to play together, taxes from the homes on the golf course, a sense of fraternity and believe it or not, for many of us, a place where we can build relationships and conduct business are just a few of the benefis of a club. This is similar to the opportunities at Disabled Veteran lodges, Libraries, tribal housing/gathering areas and Churches. I am not commenting on the tax issue just on your blanket statement that they do nothing for the community. BTW, if yoiu want to point to areas that do NOTHING for the community, what about cemetaries? Why should all those folks not pay tax when all they are doing is just laying around??
William d Brown February 08, 2013 at 04:29 PM
Gary The salary spiking you speak of does exist And it usually goes to the lap dogs of management Very few others reap that unearned reward This cheats our union workers Marco As far as sour grapes please tell me why 2 white male only clubs deserve a tax break on there land Along with 2 religious seemingly affiliated clubs in HP ? There are very few cemeteries to speak of. Jim Please stop already with the trickle down supply side BS Oh and BTW Many of these Private Clubs have worker housing that has children attending local schools The wealthy need to spend less on lobby's and attorneys and more on paying for their share of infrastructure
MS February 08, 2013 at 04:40 PM
Gary February 08, 2013 at 05:09 PM
William, The pension salary spiking scam is written right into the teacher's union contracts in Lake Forest, so you can' t claim the rank and file don't benefit from it. D67 2012-2015 contract: "B. Compensation in Final Year Compensation in the last year of employment for any full-time employee age 55 years or older who (1) has completed 10 or more years of service in the District and who (2) notifies the Superintendent or designee in writing in advance of the date she/he intends to retire shall have her/his compensation increased by 6% in their final 2 years of employment." D115 2012-2016 contract: "Retirement - If eligible, the Board will provide the teacher with a salary increase as defined below for up to four years of employment that is six percent (6%) above the teacher's salary in the prior school year." The spiking is limited to only 6% per year because the problem was so big that a while back the State passed a law saying that only 6% of salary increases in the last 4 years would count toward the pension base. This problem is universal, and every State employee is included in the scam.
William d Brown February 08, 2013 at 05:28 PM
I know nothing of teachers unions Could be as u claim for Lf My mother worked for the state and got a whooping $ 300 a month so Your claim is a lie However the constant vilification of working people by the far right t people who hate public schools and all the things that made America strong and free gets old But Man U guys are always defending wealthy welfare Which far out shadows the poor
Jim February 08, 2013 at 05:56 PM
W dB. Again, I was not commenting on the tax position of clubs, just that they are good for communiites. But Stop already with your sour grapes. Phrases like 'lap dogs', 'supply side BS', 'fear mongering,cheats', 'paid apologists for clubs'...From your tone, I wonder if you are just pissed that you didnt get into one of these clubs? Marco is on point though, the question isnt only about taxing, its about spending. My guess, and it is just a guess, is that most EVERY member of a country club pays their fair share. What you seem to be asking for in yout last comment is that they pay for others share too.
DeerfieldResident February 08, 2013 at 07:14 PM
JJ Wheeler is not wrong. Anyone who has lived in Deerfield long enough can tell you what happened to the school district once the Thorngate development was built. Think of the burden it would put on our schools today if Briarwoods or Ravinia were turned into housing developments. Think of the impact it would have on housing values. Theses clubs don't deserve a free pass, but to ignore what could happen if they have to shut down and sell their land to a developer is short sided and naive.
Jim February 08, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Another one... 'your claim is a lie'...wow... From the old movie Kelly's Heros Oddball: Always with the negative waves Moriarty, always with the negative waves.
Michael Crandal, CNG February 16, 2013 at 08:40 PM
Just a few quick thoughts about what "public" benefit (if any) "private" clubs may have. Few would argue that a major priority in our country is unemployment. (Jobs.) It might be interesting to know how many local jobs are created by these clubs? My guess --- many hundreds, perhaps 1,000+. Another very viable concern is health care. (Insurance Benefits.) It might be interesting to know how many local individuals have access to group coverage by these clubs that they otherwise might not have? My guess --- hundreds. Another concern is how are honest hard working folks going to find employment, in a down economy, with benefits, when they don't necessarily qualify for higher paying, white color, careers? My guess --- private clubs might provide an opportunity that is greatly appreciated. Nowadays --- going "green" is constantly promoted. Sooooo ... Let's assume the 10 private clubs identified each represent a conservative 125 acres of land NOT upon which clubhouses, employee housing, maintenance buildings, swimming pools, and parking lots exist. That means we have 1,250 north shore acres covered with grass and tens of thousands of trees ----- rather than what? We may debate untill the cows come home about tax issues ----- but, I would suggest that any arguments that private clubs are not valuable major contributers to the public good ... should be taken off the table. Michael Crandal, CNG MIchael@CrandalHospitality.com
Walter White February 16, 2013 at 08:50 PM
Great. And you can pay your taxes too.
Michael Crandal, CNG February 16, 2013 at 10:49 PM
Hi - Walter ... Private clubs operate on a not for profit basis. Break even. They have no "product" --- and, instead, are "service" based. "Service" = people. (Employees.) If the costs go up (Taxes, or whatever) --- Expenses must be reduced. In a service business --- this means reduced service --- this means eliminating jobs. It just comes down to --- what climate do we want to promote? #1) Greater government income (taxes) to then provide for those who don't have jobs or healthcare coverage? Or --- #2) Greater employment (jobs) to enable people to provide for themselves ... AND, pay taxes themselves while their employer also pitches in with payroll taxes and benefits? One simple answer is for all of us to work for the government and have our "pay" simply having all our needs being taken care of by the State. This approach increases operating expences (Taxes) and inhiibits growth. I believe the best answer is to promote greater free market employment by not legislating increased costs of doing business. This approach encourages economic growth and investment in employing people. This is not an emotional matter of class differences --- it's a calm look at the reality of the value of employees and employers. Furthermore, since these private clubs are all locally owned by the members and are break-even operations --- ALL annual income stays right here locally! Not a cent sent to corporate headquarters in Delaware. Wish them well, and move on.
Walter White February 16, 2013 at 11:04 PM
Guess what, I'm not for profit either. When my taxes go up my expenses must be reduced. Can I get a waiver from my property taxes also?
Walter White February 16, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Do what 99.9% of every other business does in America. Pass the cost on to the customer. Raise membership dues to cover costs. If people want to belong to a private club bad enough, they'll pay.
McCloud February 17, 2013 at 01:04 AM
This sounds familiar, the tax the rich crowd is now thinking of the other end, the consumer. Wow, where did that come from?
Jim February 19, 2013 at 06:19 PM
Walter, Guess you didnt read Mr Crandal's comment that if you raise the cost for an institiution that runs on a breakeven basis, you will see cost cuts elsewhere. Since you are writting that you understand business well enough to comment that 99.9% of business passes the higher cost along to the customers, you must be aware that in a service business the first thing management does is cuts staff. Your suggestion would result in staff being let go. Which would result in lower income taxes and unless you are prepared to hire some of these workers, the state would have to pick up their beneifts. Higher/more taxes do not generate more revenues. Finally, is your comment that you are 'not for proft either' supposed to be a humerous one, or an indication that you are more in the socialist camp?
Walter White February 19, 2013 at 06:49 PM
OK, Jim let's put on our thinking caps for a second. If a private club incurs higher costs, do you think it will say to it's members "Folks, we're gonna have to let the valet go so you'll have to park your own cars" or "we'll have to cut the omelet station from the Sunday brunch". No, they will tell the members that their dues will go up X% next year which is completely in line with what most private clubs do anyway. So enough with the melodrama about losing jobs and healthcare.
Jim February 19, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Walter, I prefer not to repsond to your 'thinking cap comment' as being a smart ass isnt useful. Having served as an advisor to one club I will state that you seem to be living in a world where some beleive that just being a memeber of a private club makes you wealthy and immune from the economic realities of today. The truth is clubs saw many drop from their rolls in 2008 /09 as the banking/investment sector was severly damaged. No melodrama here, people lost their jobs and the clubs lost memebers and staff was cut. Its fact. of the operating budget....in some ways robbing from the future to cover the expenses of today because no one wants to have 'less'. This only works for so long ....so when the downturn hit, projects that would have created jobs were put on hold and cuts were made in little things like how many days a week fairways were mowed. These minor changes resulted in staff being cut and those that retained their jobs were asked to work a little more and a little more effieceintly. So these clubs will go on as you suggest becasue there are groups of people that want to be affilaited with each other. BUT, there is simply not a money tree growing either on the members property nor that of the clubs. I promise you having seen the reponse form 5 years ago, raising taxes/costs on the clubs will result in job loses. Which, I beleive is neither good for the comunity or the system.
Jim February 19, 2013 at 07:17 PM
This got cut - Today, Balancing revenues (dues) against payments is a difficult thing not only for the government. Many clubs have historically relied on initiation fees to cover part Today, Balancing revenues (dues) against payments is a difficult thing not only for the government. Many clubs have historically relied on initiation fees to cover part
Walter White February 19, 2013 at 07:22 PM
Sorry, but that's not a good enough excuse to get out of paying your fair share of property taxes. How many businesses went under over the last several years? Did they use that as a successful argument to elminate their requirement to pay property taxes? What makes you think you are different from the thousands of other struggling businesses?
Jim February 20, 2013 at 05:10 PM
Walter, Fair share huh. Heard that a lot recently. Guy in the White House uses that as a rally cry. Guess the concept of non profit doesnt resonate although you indicated that you understood business. But to your point., private clubs need to be taxed to 'pay their fair share' , as do those other horrible exempt groups like churches, veteran halls, Lions club, schools and Universities. Get em all...make them pay their fair share. OK I just disagree.


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