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Illinois airports to push for taxing authority changes
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Illinois airports to push for taxing authority changes

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101817-BIG-STORY-AIRPORT-011

An American Airlines EMB-145LR airplane unloads at its gate at the Quad-City International Airport in Moline in October.

Three regional Illinois airports, including the Quad-City International Airport, are joining efforts to push for new state legislation that would expand their taxing authority.

The Rock Island County Metropolitan Airport Authority, which governs the Quad-City airport, received an update at its meeting Tuesday. Roger Strandlund, the airport's attorney, told commissioners that airport officials are working with leaders from the Central Illinois Regional Airport Authority in Bloomington and the Chicago Rockford Metropolitan Airport Authority in Rockford.

He said a draft of the new bill was submitted last week to the legislative review board of the Illinois Legislature. "It expands the potential taxing authority at the various airports in different ways," Strandlund said.

Under the current law, the Rock Island County airport authority is authorized to only levy taxes from taxpayers in seven of the county's 18 townships. The townships are: Rock Island; South Rock Island; Moline; South Moline; Coal Valley; Blackhawk; and Hampton.

Jim Bohnsack, the authority's chairman, said that historically the townships that are taxed had a population of 5,000 or more. The Quad-City airport authority was formed in 1947.

"Back then all the rest (of the county) was farmland, but that's not true today," he said in an interview after the meeting. In fact, he said Hampton Township only recently joined the list.

Under the proposed legislation, the airport would have the authority to tax taxpayers in all 18 townships. The townships not taxed now include: Cordova, Coe, Canoe Creek, Zuma, Port Byron, Rural, Bowling, Edgington, Andalusia, Buffalo Prairie and Drury.

Angela Burch, the airport's controller, said that while the proposed legislation would broaden the airport's taxing districts, there have been no discussions with the airport authority as to what would happen to the tax levy rate.  "If we were to keep the total rate the same and apply it to the additional tax base (added townships), it would generate an additional $426,000," she said.

Bohnsack said another possibility would be to spread the tax levy across all 18 townships, which would lower taxes for the existing taxpayers.

"Right now, we're just talking about the taxing district expanding so people who are utilizing the airport are the ones contributing to it," she said.

The current discussions are limited to Rock Island County, but the idea of expanding the district to Scott County or other counties in the metropolitan statistical area also have surfaced in recent years.

According to Burch, the airport now levies $1.463 million in property taxes from the seven townships. On average, the owner of a $100,000 home pays $76.31 a year to the airport, she said.

Airport officials had hoped to meet with state legislators last week to discuss the legislation, but a snowstorm canceled the meeting.

In other business:

  • Bruce Carter, the airport's aviation director, reported that passenger numbers "broke-even" in January. The airport posted 26,796 enplanements, or boardings, which compared to 26,824 for the same month last year.

He said Allegiant saw a 29-percent increase in enplanements, largely because of the return of its direct flight to Punta Gorda, Florida. Allegiant had 6,676 enplanements vs. 5,180 for the same period last year. The other carriers posted monthly declines: American Eagle/Envoy, down 6 percent to 6,834; Delta down 8 percent to 7,414; and United Express, down 9 percent to 5,738.

Total passengers, enplanements and deplanements combined, were 52,162, or down 1 percent from 52,675 a year ago.

  • Carter said schedules indicate that American, Delta and United Express will expand capacity in the market later this year, but more details will be known in the next two to three months. 
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