IF MONTGOMERY COUNTY'S state senators put relief for individual taxpayers ahead of tax breaks for country clubs, they will vote this week for a bill that eventually would add to $2 million more to the country's coffers each year. The House delegation from Montgomery already has done so, by voting 10 to 7 to eliminate the fat discounts on the county property tax rate that country clubs have been enjoying. All it takes now is approval by the Montgomery senators and the bill could clear the state legislature as a local measure. Otherwise, county taxpayers will continue to pay what amounts to a public subsidy for private factilities.
Contrary to what country club officials would have the senators believe, the measure would not suddenly drive their organizations out of business. As now proposed the measure is a moderate compromise that would phase out the preferential tax break over a six-year period. In the first year, clubs' assessments -- which now are at about 11 percent of market value while commercial properties are assessed at about 50 percent -- would go to about 15 percent. That would mean about $144,000 more for the county. By 1986, the estimated savings to the county would top $2 million.
As another safeguard against any cruel tax wipeout of country clubs, the bill contains a provision giving the county first of refusal to buy any club property and preserve it as green space. For that matter, if things really got that rough for a club and it could do demonstrate, the county could always study ways to provide some relief.
But right now, Montgomery County has the largest share of country clubs in the state and is suffering the largest tax loss as a result. Delaying for a statewide bill when this measure already has the necessary support in the House makes no sense. At a time when the average county homeowner is being required to pay bigger and bigger tax bills, the country's senators in Annapolis should come down squarely in favor of making private country clubs pay their fair share.