Thursday, January 30, 2014

Moline school district asks judge to reconsider Elliott Aviation ruling

The Moline-Coal Valley School District wants a Rock Island County judge to reconsider his decision to uphold a state law that grants a property tax break to Elliott Aviation.

Further, the district wants Circuit Judge Frank Fuhr to enter an order that permanently stops local and state governments from enforcing the property tax break to the company, which leases land at the Quad-City International Airport.

The motion will be heard April 1.

On Feb. 1, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that grants Elliott Aviation tax-exempt status on the property it leases at the airport and on any future improvements it makes to the property.

Later that month, the district filed a lawsuit against Quinn; the Illinois Department of Revenue and its director, Brian Hamer; the Rock Island County Board of Review and members Dan DePorter, Joan Russell and Dick Shroeder; Rock Island County chief assessor Larry Wilson; Blackhawk Township Assessor Winna Pannell; and Coal Valley Township Assessor Rose Booker.

The district argued that the law is unconstitutional and that enforcing it will result in a loss of $150,000 in property taxes annually.

Elliott Aviation was not named as a party in the lawsuit but was granted a request to intervene. Elliott last year announced plans for a $1.8 million expansion of Elliott Aviation's Moline headquarters, adding 50 jobs over the next two years.

Elliott Aviation is a fixed-base operator, which means it has been granted permission to operate at the airport to provide aeronautical services, such as fueling and hangars.

Fuhr wrote in his Dec. 11 order that the law is not arbitrary but is "reasonably related to a legitimate state interest: job creation and economic development" and thus does not violate due process and equal protection clauses.

Fuhr also ruled that the district failed to prove that the law violates a special clause that prohibits legislators from "conferring" a special benefit or privilege upon a person or group and excluding others who are similarly situated.

Fuhr wrote that the evidence shows that Elliott Aviation is "uniquely situated" and the Legislature acted within its power to enact the law.

In its motion filed Jan. 9, the district argued that the law specifically benefits Elliott Aviation but not other similarly situated companies and fixed-based operators in Illinois.

"If lowering taxes creates jobs and that is the purpose of an act then a general law should be required, not Public Act 97-1161, which selects special beneficiaries," according to the motion.

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