My friend Terry McCartney, the chairman of the Rye Golf Commission, recently wrote to the local media “to set the record straight” about the treatment the Rye Golf Club Commission has received recently from the City Council, more specifically from me. He objects to my questioning whether the Commission’s proposed two-tiered annual rate policy, requiring new Rye resident members to pay 31% more (about $1,700) than renewing Rye resident members, is fair. He objects to such questioning apparently because Rye Golf is a “private, members-only club” that “is one of the biggest taxpayers in Rye” and “essentially leases” the club property from the City of Rye. Presumably, such issues should be left up to the Rye Golf Commission, and the City Council should just mind its own business and let the Commission run Rye Golf.
Forgive me for disagreeing, but Rye Golf Club is not a private club. Rye Golf is a wholly owned and operated municipal facility of the City of Rye. Rye Golf essentially pays no City, School, or County property taxes. (It does pay one tax directly — County Sewer Tax. In 2023, that amount was $7,842.12.) The Club does not lease any land from the City of Rye. On the tax rolls, the City of Rye is listed as the owner of Rye Golf Club. The “Rye Golf Club” does not exist as a legal entity separate and apart from the City of Rye. The City’s Rye Golf Enterprise Fund does make an annual $400,000 transfer payment to the “Rye City General Fund” for City personnel time and expense and liability insurance. This is no more than an accounting entry — a Rye City inter-fund transfer. It is not a “lease,” and it is not “taxes” that are paid for by a separate entity, the Rye Golf Club, which again does not on its own legally exist.
The General Manager of Rye Golf Club reports to the City Manager. The Rye Golf GM and all Rye Golf employees are Rye City employees. Rye Golf follows City of Rye procurement policies when purchasing goods and services. The City of Rye is ultimately responsible for lawsuits and all liabilities of Rye Golf and has had to make payments in the past when things went awry at Rye Golf. It is expected that the Rye Golf Club Commission will come to the City when the pool needs replacing, as the Club cannot borrow on its own.
The Rye Golf Commission is an advisory commission to the City Council, which has the ultimate responsibility to maintain the asset and approves the annual club rates.
Rye Golf Club’s Rye resident members are annual rate payers who have no individual property rights in the land, buildings, and improvements of Rye Golf Club. Through the City, all Rye taxpayers (Rye Golf members and non-members) indirectly own this property — and it’s a substantial property. The land where Rye Golf Club is located is the City of Rye’s most valuable property, worth easily in the tens of millions of dollars. The City could parcel off and sell this land to developers and greatly increase the City’s tax base, lowering property taxes for all current residents. If Rye Golf was a privately owned club, the City could still collect a significant amount of property taxes to the benefit of all Rye City taxpayers. While it is true that the Rye Golf Enterprise Fund is run by the City on a break-even basis, so as not to require direct and immediate Rye taxpayer support, Rye taxpayers own the property and therefore already support Rye Golf.
It is great that some Rye residents sign up as members of Rye Golf year after year, enjoy friendships, take pride in the facility, and love their pool, restaurant, and wonderful golf course. No one is knocking the quality of the facilities or the work the Rye Golf Commission has done to increase the enjoyment of the Club. No one on the City Council wants to micro-manage the day-to-day running of Rye Golf. However, the taxpayers of Rye own Rye Golf Club and they should be able to expect that all Rye residents, both new and renewing, will be charged the same rates to use this City facility. That is a matter of simple fairness and there is nothing “political” about it.
The author is a member of the Rye City Council.