Other Voices | Rod Ward: Paying Property taxes is a Civic Duty

In response to the headlines in last Friday’s paper, it is everyone’s Civic Duty to pay Ad Valorem/Property Taxes. There are certain exceptions and that is the elderly, the incapacitated, churches, CASA, Hope Haven etc… What we have now is a system of Rewards for those organizations that claim all this Civic Goodwill and yet they are not wanting to pay their Basic Civic Obligation on property taxes. There are plenty of them not to just pick on a few. They need to get Awards not Rewards. Awards are Recognition and Rewards are financial Gifts.

Property Taxes pay for all the things we need as a civilized society. Public Safety to include Fire and Police Protection, Ambulance Services, 911 Services, Roads, Drainage, City and County Employees deserve a livable salary, Public Works, Schools, Street Lights, Parks, Walking Paths, Crime Prevention, Grass Maintenance, Jails, Public Buildings, Public Litter Control and other amenities just to name some of the obvious things as there are many others.

Non Profits are coming here faster than Businesses. There a few organizations that say they promote businesses but they are bringing Non Profits in faster than businesses. The County and City Taxing Authorities can’t keep up with these type of back door leakages with Tax increases.

The next time you see a tax increase don’t say what am I getting for it say where did it all go and to who? Question organizations you feel should not be exempt from the Basic Civic Obligation. That is also another basic Civic Obligation to be Involved.

Rod Ward

37 thoughts on “Other Voices | Rod Ward: Paying Property taxes is a Civic Duty”

  1. Absolutely on point. We need an audit of who is exempt from taxes before we increase the millage at all.
    We also need to have our people in the state houses and departments to revisit who is exempt by law and why. The state has little money, municipalities have even less.
    Nows the time for everyone to pay their share, as Rod said.

  2. It may have been asked and/or answered, but I didn’t see it, so I’ll ask: what was the initial impetus for the Yacht Club to seek to avoid the tax? It is, or was, simply a cost shared among the members in the form of dues, assessments, etc., just like the other costs of maintaining any private club. Obviously, the board of a private club has a duty to not be spendthrift with its member’s dues, and that would include any legal avoidance of taxes, but just how did this particular tax/issue wind up before the board? Secondly, how was this issue not before the membership, either officially or unofficially? Thirdly, if I have read correctly, the club had been paying taxes until recently, so where did the savings go, i.e., were dues reduced, some other expense funded, or ???

    1. Thanks for asking all of those questions, Nunya Bidness. Wish we, the share holders knew, but it was done (the By-Laws change) without being advertised in our newsletter prior to our Board of Governors voting on it, as required by our By-Laws. Wonder if that would make a difference with the Secretary of State where the change to a fraternal, benevolent organization from a pleasure and recreational is filed? We are still filing with IRS as a 501 (c)(7)?? Do the two filings statuses have to match? Can we be fraternal in Jackson, and pleasurable in Washington DC? !!!! A former Commodore called me to make sure I understood that he had nothing to do with the By-Law change. He said that we have some
      “new people down there running things!” No joke!!

      1. The matter of the property tax status is state law and the club is either entitled to an exemption or it is not. Things like are 501(c)(7) are federal law over which the state has no control or role. The feds could decide to allow Yacht Clubs to call themselves “maritime defense installations” (or whatever) and pay no federal tax and/or the state could choose to make all private clubs pay triple property tax under the “ain’t you swanky!” theory (or whatever) and the status would have nothing to do with the other unless and until one or the other codified the connection. The fact that the state tax law might reference the fed tax law is only important as long as the state chooses to do so – the feds aren’t going to get involved or care. Put simply and generally, an organization can be a whorehouse to the feds and a church to the state and all the fed will care about is the tax due the fed.

        But that doesn’t answer my questions, particularly the one about how the (sudden?) savings was addressed in the club’s accounting. If the savings wasn’t “returned” to the members in the form of a dues decrease, to what did that money go?

        1. Nun,
          The flip side of the savings, if any, to the Yacht Club, is the void left in the county coffers with now $40,000 less in ad valorem taxes. Who absorbs that, and how do the entities provide for what that $40,000 covered?

  3. Thank You Rod !!
    My dues were not reduced at the BWYC.
    A complete audit of the state is definitely overdue. My feeling is the citizens of BSL or Hancock County should protest and fight any increase of taxes until we know exactly who and why certain clubs are exempt. And maybe it is time for someone to challenge Mr. Ladner at his job and we get someone who will make sure the taxes are properly assessed across the board. I know many may not want to hear this, but i’m tired of carrying the burden for the rest of the city. If you want good city services then pay your fair share. Our police, fire and other city employees deserve good pay. We need improved streets and other services. It is not free….

    1. Outraged,
      And what a terrible image for the Yacht Club–the most affluent in our community on the take. Chris Roth’s defense of this exemption and removal from the tax rolls in the Sea Coast Echo is because we have “done so much for the community.” That’s what we are supposed to do, or so I thought, as Rod said.
      You don’t do good deeds and expect anything in return, or that’s how I was raised.
      Chris seems to be more interested in” good deals” than good deeds.

      1. And what a terrible image for the Yacht Club–the most affluent in our community on the take.

        Just be sure not to call it an entitlement or welfare!

        AFAIK It’s still ok to call this a “tax exemption” or “free market freedum” though.

  4. The Lipton Regatta is at the BWYC this weekend. Wonder how much “non profit” the club will benefit from. There is no good will. You have to pay to eat and drink there. Nothing is a give away. Sailors come from all over to participate in this event.
    Most conversations I have had in regards to this the people are amazed how this all came about. Some members, like myself, had no idea this had happened. We didn’t get a letter saying we have a different status and member will benefit from it with reduced dues or cost of goods at the club.

    1. I think some of you misunderstand “non-profit.” In general terms, such clubs are “non-profit” (as entities addressed by 501(c)(7) of the tax code) because they are not “for profit” businesses. Members, i.e., owners/stockholders, did not invest capital attempting to make a profit for their own interests. Yes, the club might “make money” on specific items or individual transactions – i.e., buy rum at 50 cents an ounce and sell drinks for $5-6.00 or buy meat for $3.00/lb and sell 1/4 pound hamburgers for $5-6.00 – but none of the members, stockholders, etc., are “making money” (or even attempting to do so) from the operation of a club. First, there are the other costs: employees and benefits, insurance, supplies, the buns, condiments, and garnishes for the burgers, the mixers, etc., for the cocktails, etc., etc., etc., but more importantly, the club isn’t paying dividends or otherwise apportioning “profit” or “loss” to members/shareholders nor are those members/shareholders expecting any such distribution of profit and loss. Since there is not, and never will be, any income or loss, there is nothing, and never will be anything, to tax (or deduct).

      The property/ad valorem (“based on value”) tax is not related to federal income tax code. A state can choose to exempt or choose to tax such clubs regardless of their status under federal code. Such a club is either exempt or it is not from ad valorem tax. If it is and you don’t agree, it is a matter to be addressed with the legislature, not the club or the county tax assessor or collector. The board would (or at least should) have an obligation to take advantage of all possible expense-reducing items, such as legal and permissible tax avoidance, so the board doing so doesn’t appear inappropriate on its face. But the question(s) still remain: if the Yacht Club had been paying ad valorem tax until recently, with dues based upon the total cost of club operations, and now, it isn’t paying that tax, where is the money previously expended now going? If it is going to increase a general or reserve fund, fair enough. If members were purposefully not made aware of the potential savings and then, the actual savings, that seems a bit odd. From what has been posted, there is enough information to beg questions, but not nearly enough to form opinions, much less answers.

      1. It appears “some of you misunderstand[ing] has company Nunya. The State Statute seems very clear to me. This is a matter for law enforcement, not the legislature.

        2 years of taxes need to be repaid, the only question is who pays them, the Club or the tax collector.

        The voters down can address the rest next year.

        1. With respect, you may know more than what has been posted. I’ve seen nothing posted that purports to give complete facts, “chapter and verse,” as to exactly what went down. I’m not a tax attorney or an accountant, but I am familiar with the law and rules and could form an opinion about it all if I knew all the facts. I do not so I cannot and will not. There are certainly exemptions that MIGHT apply, even some that SEEM to apply (see, e.g., § 27-31-1. Exempt property), but at the end of the day, they either do or do not apply. If the club was granted an exemption, what law has been broken to enforce? Unless I’ve missed it, there is no allegation by anyone that the Yacht Club is really a for-profit corp fraudulently formed by the members and holding itself out as a non-profit. As to local-level collector/assessor/payer/entity hanky-panky *IF* any, all with an interest might wish to read § 27-29-29. Liability of assessor and collector, and read every sentence carefully.

          1. Having a mission statement that qualifies is not actually doing it. Exactly who, when, what and where were these benevolent civic actions done. I believe it is merely a suggestion and no action. What anyone does personally does not translate to the club doing it!

          2. The devil is in the details as you point out. For shits and giggles I’m going to run the exemptions section through Fast Case and see what, if any litigation is out there.

            For those so interested this the text of MS Code § 27-29-29 “Liability of assessor and collector”:

            The assessor and collector, with their sureties, shall be severally held liable on their bonds and bound to pay the county or state the full amount of all sums lost to the state or county, respectively, from the failure or neglect of the assessor to assess, return, or otherwise faithfully to complete his assessment, or from any neglect of the collector to collect the taxes assessed. Any taxpayer may cause suit to be instituted for the above, against the assessor and sureties, or the collector and sureties, on his official bond, the person causing suit to be instituted becoming responsible for the costs in the suit. But the failure of the assessor to assess the taxes, or of the tax collector to collect the same, shall not affect the liability of the person or property, who or which ought to have paid the taxes or been assessed.

            As I read that Code Section the Yacht Club is not off the hook. It also has a poison pill.

      2. Maybe this will help, Nun.
        Title 27-Chapter 31–ad valorem tax exemptions
        Exempt properties:
        “All property, real or personal, owned and occupied by a fraternal and benevolent organization, when used by such organization, and from which no RENTALS or other profits accrue to the organization, BUT, any part rented or from which revenue is received SHALL BE TAXED. “(emphasis mine)
        You see, when the “powers that be” promised Jimmie Ladner that they would have the By-Laws changed to make them “fraternal and benevolent” rather than “pleasure and recreational” they failed to tell him they had no intentions of adhering to the part of the code on rental of their facility to maintain that status. Not only do we continue to “receive revenue on the rental of our facility” (Miss. Code 27-31-1) we solicit revenue for such on our website.
        Jimmie told the Sea Coast Echo that “there was no backroom deal.” Well, I don’t know what room this change in By-Laws occurred, but I can tell you where it did NOT occur–in the second floor dining hall of the Yacht Club where the annual Stockholders meeting is held each November. The By-Laws change is dated Oct. 5, 2015 on the documents at the Secretary of State. The Stockholders meeting was one month later with NO mention of this to the Stockholders, AND there was no advertisement of the change prior to the vote at the Oct. Board of Governors meeting as required in our By-Laws.
        They (those few that knew and signed that document) got the change in status, but have not operated in compliance of the code to maintain it.
        There are a couple of choices to remedy the situation: come into compliance with Title 27, and discontinue receiving revenue for rentals on the property, or go back to the pleasure and recreational status. We can’t have it both ways. But as Doug said, the two year, now going on three of exemption should be paid back to the county taxpayers, they are the losers here.

        1. I’m familiar with that portion of the Code (I cited it). However, neither you nor anyone else is posting factual information, i.e., documents. Just because someone alleges something improper, even if they sincerely believe it, isn’t actually evidence of anything. I’m not saying you are wrong, just that evidence is evidence and hearsay is hearsay.

          1. This situation reminds me of an insurance case we followed back in the day involving top shelf Plaintiff lawyers and a second tier insurance company. In discovery the plaintiffs asked for the company to produce its claims procedures manual containing the company’s adjusting policies and procedures. The response they received was claims adjusting manuals? We have no stinking claims manual. I’m not sure which legal rocket scientist dreamed that one up but it was a loser argument. We have something analogous here.

            Stone tomorrow part 2 rolls.

    2. Why would they not publicly announce good news to the membership? Saving $20K per year is the most profitable decision made in the last decade ? They did not want to happen what has happened. Public awareness and club awareness. A few people took on a lot for a lot of unsuspecting people. It may be popular at the club but a large portion of the membership live other places, Waveland, Pass Christian and Louisiana. They would have no fiscal obligation to us what so ever. Only what would benefit them.

  5. As I said before great job Rod. Thanks for standing up against your own organization for the best interest of BSL.
    Lana, Have to agree with you on Mr. Roth’s statement about they have done so much good for the community.
    Maybe as a member you can tell me the so much good yall have done for this community?
    CCA , Bay Ratz, Sea Horses, TBT, Buoys, DanB’s, Cuz’s, Slipper, Hollywood, Rotary, to name a few and so many cooking groups that raise money for individuals or school functions or benefits or for the youth or just to show appreciation for CASA or HopeHaven or Schools or Churches and all the churches and groups that feed and cloth the needy.
    That is community involvement.
    That is doing for your community.
    That is community service.
    Not a bunch of —- that say they do so much for our community to get a tab break. Show me !
    Y’all, and I use that very loosely, as members of the yacht club have not done a whole hell of a lot for our community.l that I see.
    Not you personally lana.
    To use that facility you must pay not sure about members.
    Even for such events as CCA’s sunset on the bay. Not only do they have to pay for the bottom floor but the yacht club makes plenty of money on the booze sold. Not even allowed to go upstairs during this event unless you are a member or guest. Use the port A potty down stairs.
    This is the reason myself and large group has stopped going. Because of the location and the yacht club makes the money and not all going to the CCA. Wish they would move it to the community center or OLG where they can make all the money.
    One other note. All the members are saying they knew nothing about this.
    Maybe? But do the members ever see the books, couldn’t see a $20,000 savings, can’t ask questions, or just turned a blind eye until all hell breaks loose and now plead the fifth? No different than you asking or questioning the cities or county about things. . But some of these same individuals on here are in the yacht club that tries to keep BS stirred up in everyone’s else’s house but not in their own house.
    This my friends is no different than the apartment complexes that don’t pay their fair share of taxes because they are for low and no income people, giving nothing or reduced taxes to the county, cities and to the schools.
    Yacht Club vs. Gov. Housing,
    Rich or Poor
    Both screwing the community and the system. and blaming everybody but themselves.
    Blame Jimmy?
    Blame the system?
    Go to Jackson with Rod and let’s change the system.
    If Jimmy did something illegal hang him. But I don’t see where he did anything illegal. Followed the laws.
    Change the laws!

    1. Stone,
      Doing for your community and getting nothing g in return is a good deed.
      Doing something and becoming $40,000 richer than you were before is a good ” deal!”

  6. The Yacht Club built that massive expensive building after the storm.
    I’m a member, though no longer active. There were bonds issued. Have they all been satisfied? Is the Building Paid for? Can you imagine the insurance bill? I’m sure $40,000 can easily be spent around there. When I was active, finding out financial information was impossible, particularly as it relates to the debt on the building.
    Not anyone can rent a room for an activity. Only menbers, and yes, they pay.

    1. Rachael,
      That is not exactly accurate that only members can rent the building. Non members can rent it as long as they have a member sign for (sponsor) them, but at non member rates, of course. This is the current Club Rental Policy in effect:
      Board Room (2 hours) $75 to members–$150 to non members
      Dining Room (4 hours or less) $400 to members—$800 to non members
      Entire Club House (Dining room and bar) $600 to members—$1,200 to non members
      The Club solicits rentals of the facility to the general public on their website http://www.bwyc.org. You do not have to be a member with a Login to view what is available.
      It advertises availability for Weddings, receptions, rehearsal dinners, special occasions, birthdays, bridal showers, baby showers, dances and fundraisers, meetings and corporate events.
      All drinks (alcohol and other) must be purchased at the club and all food catered by them.
      There is a rumor being circulated right now that only members can rent the club, which is the only reason I wanted to clarify your statement.

        1. No. It is not the Club member renting. The renter, non member, pays for the rental, not the Club member who “vouches” for them, so to speak, that they are responsible and will abide by all Rental Policy rules. If you want to give Michael a birthday party at the Club, and ask me to sponsor you, since you are no longer a member, I will sign for you as being a responsible person. But YOUR check will pay for all of the expenses and services you obligate yourself to –not me.

          1. Suppose a drunken brawl breaks out?

            Who is responsible for the damages if any?

            Surely the contract specifies who assumes liability.

            1. Drunken brawls are not addressed. I would imagine the club manager would have the authority to call the police, and damages would be charged to whomever caused them, whether members or non.

              1. Since you contributed to this story, Lana, perhaps you could get a copy of the contract, and share it.

          2. The point is, you must know a member well enough to be sponsored in order to rent a space. That is not public, or benevolent. Perhaps it’s how some members see it, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the intent or spirit of the law.
            That’s the point, Lana. As a forty year member, you should understand that the events there are members only.

            1. Rachael, you are correct. The problem we have at hand is exactly that. Saying you’re doing something for a certain reason but not actually doing it. Trying to connect dots when any benefit to the public is just and incidental event!

            2. Events at the Yacht Club are not exclusively members only. Anyone can access the Website and click on Events where an array of occasions the club is available for is posted. The phone number is posted to make your arrangements.
              There are two costs of rentals in the By-laws- one for members and one for the public ( non members). And, the person renting is responsible for paying, not the member sponsoring them.
              But, the important thing to remember here is just what Doug pointed out in his updated post yesterday. Title 27 of the Miss. Code does not address
              ” who” rents the facility- the determination for taxation is based on
              ” Revenue being received by the organization from rentals ”
              The Code doesn’t speak to profit, just whether or not Revenue is received.
              I support Doug’s analysis– the Yacht Club is in violation of Title 27, and Hancock County is now owed 2 years of ad valorem taxes.

  7. Everyone pays! No freebies there. It is a constant collection of money for this that and the other. As it should be. It should self fund and leave the unsuspecting and uninvited public alone.

  8. After the new club was built, they went to a no cash policy. You had to give the server your number, and charge your purchases to your club account.
    No one was going to get in who wasn’t a member.

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