The Sebring, Fla., property is attempting to persuade the Highlands County appraiser to exempt its golf course and tennis courts from property taxes, which amounted to $45,882 last year.
Sun ‘N Lake Golf Club in Sebring, Fla., will try again to persuade the Highlands County appraiser to exempt its golf course and tennis courts from property taxes, the Highlands (Fla.) Today reported.
Last year, the improvement district was assessed $45,882, said district manager Michael Wright, which included the restaurant and the golf pro shop, Today reported.
“It’s a lot of money,” said Dick Miller, who presides over the club’s board of supervisors. “And it can be used for other things, improvements of various amenities here.”
The district unsuccessfully challenged ad valorem taxes in 1995, 1996 and 1998 on residential lots that were foreclosed. In Sun ‘N Lake v. McIntyre, the circuit court judge in Highlands County found that the properties were not held for a public purpose, and therefore were not exempt. The Second District Court of Appeals agreed, Today reported.
However, according to a resolution prepared by the district’s attorney, John McClure, the appeals judges didn’t address the golf course and tennis courts, noting that courts had previously exempted other public properties, Today reported.
The appeals court returned the case to the trial court, but the club decided not to spend more money on the case at the time. This year, Miller said, the subject came up again while club supervisors were discussing finances. “We’re paying taxes on some of the properties, the clubhouse, tennis courts and so forth, which other (governments) are not paying.”
The City of Sebring golf course, for instance, is not taxed, Miller was told in board discussions. In their resolution presented to McIntyre, the supervisors declared that the golf course and tennis courts are open to the public and that user fees and assessments pay only for operations and maintenance, Today reported.
“To my knowledge, the golf course has never made a profit,” Wright said, “or if it has, it’s been many years and well before my time with the district. The district subsidizes golf operations by hundred thousand dollars per year.”
“I’ve been here since 2000, and we’ve always run a substantial deficit on the golf course,” Miller agreed. “The tennis courts have never been operated for revenue.”
Only the restaurant is in the black, Miller said, “and we’ve struggled mightily to make that profitable.” The club isn’t seeking an exemption on the clubhouse and restaurant, Today reported.
“We should receive equal treatment,” Miller said. “We don’t have a police force and a few other things, we don’t issue bonds, but we are a unit of local government.”
“After they have filed the applications for the exemptions and we gather the information we need to consider,” McIntyre said, “I will have a discussion with our legal counsel.”
Then he will proceed. “I don’t have enough factual information to make a decision at this time,” McIntyre said.