Illinois Senate passes bill to expand tax base for Central Illinois Regional Airport
The Illinois Senate has passed a bill that would expand the property-tax base for Central Illinois Regional Airport – from Bloomington and Normal city limits to the entire county.
The bill, now SB 684, passed the Senate on Wednesday. It now moves to the House.
If approved, the measure would spread the airport’s tax burden across more of McLean County. That would theoretically mean lower taxes for property owners in Bloomington-Normal but higher taxes for those in rural parts of the county. Some small-town mayors are opposed to the idea, which airport leaders have tried unsuccessfully for years to get passed.
The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Dave Koehler, a Peoria Democrat whose district now includes parts of Bloomington-Normal. Bloomington-Normal’s two other senators – Republicans Sally Turner and Tom Bennett – voted against the bill on Wednesday. WGLT has reached out to them for comment.
Bennett told WGLT on Friday that he uses the airport himself, calling it a "great place." But he said the airport hasn't done enough public engagement on the taxing issue.
Bennett said he asked airport officials to do things like host public forums or town halls or even give out fliers about the potential change.
"When I asked for those kinds of things to be done, they said, 'Yep, we can do that.' But I haven't heard anything back," Bennett said. "If you're gonna raise taxes on people, those people should be able to give you their feedback."
Turner told WGLT on Monday that she had similar concerns.
"We didn't see any fliers or any public forums or anything like that, so people could voice their concerns or talk about the issue," Turner said. "It'd be nice if they put it to referenda."
The Lexington City Council passed a resolution at Monday's meeting formally opposing the bill, citing the potential higher taxes on its residents. It encouraged residents to contact state lawmakers to express opposition to the idea. Lexington Mayor Spencer Johansen is chair of the McLean County Mayors Association.
Property taxes make up only a portion of the airport’s overall budget. And the airport’s tax rate makes up a small portion of a homeowner’s overall property tax bill, relative to local school districts and city governments. The owner of a $180,000 home in Bloomington-Normal last year, for example, would have paid around $85 in taxes to the airport.
A spokesperson for CIRA previously said that airport officials would not do interviews on the topic until the bill began to move through the legislative process in Springfield.