Friday, June 17, 2016

Illinois Supreme Court says Elliot Aviation must pay property tax

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KWQC) – The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the an appellate court’s decision stating that a business at the Quad City Airport must pay property tax.

Elliot Aviation is a private, Fixed-Base Operator that leases space from the Rock Island County Metropolitan Airport Authority.

The company offered to expand, but wanted tax breaks to make it more competitive with similar operations in Iowa and other states that don’t tax FBOs. Special legislation was approved to make an exception for Elliot, even though other FBOs in Illinois would continue to be taxed.

The Moline School District says as long as Elliot doesn’t pay property taxes, the district loses $150,000 per year.

In July of 2015, the appellate court ruled the tax break given to Elliot Aviation was unconstitutional. They appealed that decision and on Thursday, June 16, 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision.

In an email Andrew Evans of Elliot Aviation issued the following statement in response to the decision:

“We are disappointed in the ruling. Our primary focus will remain on our employees and running our business here in the Quad Cities in a very competitive environment. This and many other factors will be considered as we grow and expand our business in the future.”

The Moline School District released the following statement:.

“We are very pleased the [Illinois] Supreme Court upheld the appellate court’s decision in favor of the school district.”

Moline School District Chief Financial Officer, Dave McDermott.

Read more here:

Moline schools win Elliott lawsuit

In a ruling announced Thursday, the Moline-Coal Valley School District won a case in the Illinois Supreme Court that could have cost the district at least $150,000 in tax revenue annually.

The Illinois Supreme Court voted 6-1 to uphold the 3rd District Appellate Court ruling from 2014 that favored the school district's position over that of Elliott Aviation, Moline.

"We are very pleased and appreciate that the Supreme Court upheld the decision," said Dave McDermott, chief financial officer of the school district and who has estimated the $150,000 was at stake in the judgment.

Elliott Aviation was disappointed in the ruling.

"Our primary focus will remain on our employees and running our business here in the Quad-Cities in a very competitive environment. This and many other factors will be considered as we grow and expand our business in the future," said Andrew Evans, director of marketing for the firm that operates private air services at the Quad-City International Airport in Moline. Evans issued his statement in an e-mail message to the Quad-City Times.

The decision stems from 2013 legislation that granted the firm a tax break, fashioned by Quad-City business leaders after the company let it be known it might expand operations in Des Moines, rather than Moline. Iowa does not issue property taxes on such businesses.

Soon after, then-Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation and joined Elliott officials in announcing a $1.8 million expansion at the Quad-City airport. This expansion included 50 new jobs.

The Moline district sued, however, stating the tax dollars generated by the firm were necessary to the education of the district's students.

Elliott won the first round of litigation in Rock Island County, but the 3rd District Appellate Court in Ottawa rejected that decision.

The Supreme Court reaffirmed the appellate court decision, noting the property taxes are paid by businesses similar to Elliott Aviation in several other areas of Illinois.

Elliott Aviation is considered a fixed-based operator, or FBO, at the airport, and the justices' opinion mentioned several times that it is not the only FBO in the state.

Justice Lloyd Karmeier delivered the opinion, with agreement from Chief Judge Rita Garman and Justices Charles Freeman, Robert Thomas, Thomas Kilbride and Anne Burke concurred. Justice Mary Jane Theis dissented.

"Based upon what is before us, we do not see and cannot reasonably conceive of anything that would justify distinguishing FBOs operating at the Quad-City airport from any number of other FBOs at other Illinois airports, or indeed, from other Illinois businesses which operate on our borders or compete with companies in more tax-friendly jurisdictions, for purposes of property tax liability," Karmeier wrote for the majority.

Dissenter Theis wrote that the majority has paid "only lip service" to its duties and excused the school district from its responsibilities.

The case was Moline School District No. 40 Board of Education, Appellee, v. Patrick Quinn, governor, State of Illinois, et al. Elliott Aviation, Aviation, Inc., Appellant.

Original article can be found here:

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