Though a bill that would expand the Quad-City International Airport's taxing authority didn't take off as planned this legislative session, officials are hoping the issue isn't grounded.
At last week's Rock Island County Metropolitan Airport Authority meeting, outgoing Director of Aviation Bruce Carter said a bill that would widen the Quad-City airport's taxing district failed to move forward during the spring session. The local airport, along with the Central Illinois Regional Airport Authority in Bloomington and the Chicago Rockford Metropolitan Airport Authority in Rockford, joined together in filing the bill.
Carter said the three airports "ran out of time" this session. The proposed bill failed to receive more than one sponsor and did not advance past the Rules Committee. Carter expects the airports to further analyze the potential economic impact, and hopes the bill will be revisited next session.
"There will be additional conversations between communities and different airport authorities," said Carl Olson, executive director of the Bloomington-Normal airport. "We'll look at ways to regroup and take another stab at it. It's an important feature and something for the good of communities."
Under the current law, the Rock Island County airport authority may only levy taxes from taxpayers in seven of the county's 18 townships. Jim Bohnsack, the authority's chairman, previously said only townships with populations of 5,000 or more are taxed, including Rock Island, South Rock Island, Moline, South Moline, Coal Valley, Blackhawk and Hampton.
The proposed bill would have allowed the Q-C airport to collect revenue from taxpayers in all 18 townships. The airport authorities would be reorganized and their taxing boundaries would be expanded county-wide, according to Olson.
"The Bloomington-Normal airport has been working on this for a number of years, but this has been the first year other airports have joined in," Olson said. "It's about strengthening control over airport revenues — local control. It's about tax equity for our constituents, and it's about contingency planning."
The Q-C airport's controller, Angela Burch, said in February 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. If the airport was to keep its rate the same and apply it to the entire county, Burch said it could generate an additional $426,000, according to previous reporting by the Quad-City Times.
In McClean County, Olson said current taxpayers could see their rates go down if the airport was allowed to tax the county’s other 25 percent of residents who live in rural areas.
"So that 75 percent of taxpayers get a tax reduction, and 25 percent would pay a new tax," he said. "And even if they were to assert, 'well, I don't fly,' they don't realize that they already benefit from the airport. It generates $160 million a year in economic benefit. Over 40 percent of jobs generated at our airport are held by employees in rural McClean County."
Olson said Peoria Airport, DuPage Airport and Crawford County Airport have all successfully restructured their taxing authorities.