Elliott Aviation will be tax exempt, if Quinn signs bill

Originally Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2012, 5:44 pm
Last Updated: Dec. 12, 2012, 11:28 am
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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

A bill awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn's signature would exempt Elliott Aviation Inc. from paying property taxes on land it leases from Quad City International Airport.

House Bill 4110 was passed by both the Illinois House and Senate on Dec. 4. Sponsored by state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, and state Reps. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, Richard Morthland, R-Cordova, and Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, the bill gives Elliott tax-exempt status.

The Moline School District opposed the bill, saying it would lose $150,000 annually and likely more if Elliott's plans for expansion come to fruition. On Tuesday,Moline superintendent David Moyer said Elliott was unwilling to meet with school officials to discuss solutions to the school district's loss of income.

Mr. Moyer said Paul Rumler, executive vice president of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce -- along with Sen. Jacobs and Reps. Verschoore and Morthland -- did follow through with promises to meet with Elliott executives.

"The result of that meeting is that they were informed Elliott Aviation was completely unwilling to meet to consider any creative solutions that might help buffer the loss of income to the district," Mr. Moyer told the school board Monday.

Mr. Moyer said $150,000 a year is about the equivalent of 2 1/2 teachers.On Tuesday, he said Elliott's tax-exempt status is unlike a tax abatement or a tax-increment-financing district.

"This is a permanent tax exemption," he said. "We were told in no uncertain terms that Elliott had no interest in such a meeting.

"We requested an opportunity to sit down and bring all people together to have a conversation in the best interest of the community. They (Elliott) said they weren't interested. I'm not sure what else to make of it."

Rep. Verschoore, though, said there is still hope the school district and Elliott could reach a compromise.

"As a matter of fact, I saw a representative of Elliott's Thursday night," Rep. Verschoore said. "I told him I hope he would talk to the Moline School District to work out compensation of some sort.He said he would talk to the powers that be at Elliott."

Elliott, which provides a variety of aircraft sales and maintenace services, has centers in Moline, Minneapolis and Des Moines.From the company's standpoint, it's a competitive disadvantage for Elliott to pay property taxes, roughly $200,000 in 2012, a spokesman said earlier this year.

Company spokesman Andrew Evans said the company would reconsider plans to expand its Moline operations if it did not get the tax break.

The dilemma, area legislators have said, is that tax incentives could mean hundreds of additional good-paying jobs to the area in the coming decade. But taxing districts, such as school districts, would see little revenue directly from the job growth.

Elliott's request for a total exemption follows earlier efforts to get a partial break. In January 2002, Elliott entered into a tax-abatement agreement with the Moline School District when the firm was planning a new paint facility.

"Elliott operates at the airports in Des Moines, Omaha and Minneapolis," the proposal said. "This facility would be placed at one of these airports or Elliott will select to purchase a paint facility already in existence.

"However, with your help, we would prefer to keep this project in Moline, even if it makes economic sense to go elsewhere."

On Jan. 28, 2002, the Moline School Board approved a property tax abatement whereby the school district and Elliott would share new property taxes created by new construction for 10 years.

In June, Janine Moffitt of the Rock Island County Clerk's office said the abatement started with 2003 taxes collected in 2004. According to the proposal, after 10 years the entire tax amount would revert to the school district.

This year, Elliott began talking about another expansion. Rep. Verschoore said earlier this year that Elliott wants to buy the Deere hangar at the airport and build around it.

Elliott employs about 400 people at its Midwest locations, including more than 200 at the Quad City International Airport, company spokesman Andrew Evans said in June.

In May, Mr. Evans said that, pending approval of the proposed legislation, growth potential at Elliott could be an additional 300 to 400 jobs over the next 10 years.

Mr. Evans said fixed-base operators and maintenance, repair and overhaul providers in Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan operate on airport property that is tax exempt.

"If this legislation fails, Elliott Aviation will table its expansion plans for Moline and will review other options including looking at expanding our operations elsewhere," Mr. Evans said earlier this year.

Rep. Morthland said he wishes things were going better for the school district, which on Monday announced staff cuts and departure from its special education district.

"If we don't have these jobs, they're (school district) not going to have those tax dollars anyway," Rep. Morthland said. "When you look at it in its totality, yes, there are some definite short-term losses the school district will absorb.

"But, looking at the long-term gains, you'll have a healthier employed community, particularly in Moline."

Rep. Verschoore said he is at a loss.

"I don't know what people want," he said. "When you're looking for jobs, you take them where you can get them."

Mr. Evans could not be reached for comment.


Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, Oct. 1, the 274th day of 2014. There are 91 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: It is rumored in the streets that the 13 negroes sent to Quincy on the Moline quota were refused. We think this must be a mistake.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Harvey McKenna, of Detroit, billiard player matched to play Wizard Schafer in New York in January for the world championship, was a professional friend and manager, Billy Catton in Rock Island.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Levi Cralle, former Rock Island county sheriff, had come from his farm near Mitchell, S.D. to visit friends in the city.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Work is being rushed on the new high school building in Orion to replace the one destroyed by fire last winter. Classes are being held in churches.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Rehearsals for the 84th season of the Handel Oratorio Society chorus will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday on the stage of Centennial Hall, Augustana College.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Rock Island City Council's plan announced this week to have the federal government vacate Valley Homes public housing and move residents to Arsenal Courts to reduce density may not be feasible.

(More History)