The Springfield Airport Authority Board gave the go-ahead for a lawsuit to seek an estimated $800,000 to $1 million from Springfield city government for sales tax revenue the board believes the airport deserves but hasn’t received.
Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport said in a press release the board of commissioners voted 4-2 Tuesday, with one commissioner voting “present,” to “commence litigation” based on the city’s alleged “non-compliance with airport revenue diversion laws and regulations.”
Airport board chairman Frank Vala told The State Journal-Register that city officials refused for years to forward to the airport a percentage of motor-fuel tax revenue on aviation fuel sold there.
A lawsuit hasn’t been filed yet.
Mayor Jim Langfelder said he thinks the city would win any such lawsuit, but he plans to ask the authority board for a meeting to discuss and potentially resolve the matter out of court.
Money spent on a lawsuit would be a waste of taxpayer dollars, Langfelder said.
Vala said guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration supports the authority’s claim to part of the motor fuel tax generated by airlines and private companies buying fuel at the airport.
Langfelder said the state of Illinois, which collects and distributes sales tax to local taxing bodies, didn’t adopt the FAA policy until 2019. A portion of the sales tax on aviation fuel sold at Capital Airport began flowing directly to the airport authority in January 2020 instead of to city government, Langfelder said.
The tax money that the authority said is owed was collected before January 2020 and distributed to the city, the mayor said.
City government’s lawyer, Jim Zerkle, told the Springfield City Council on Tuesday that he doesn’t think the city owes money to the airport authority.
“The FAA adopting a regulation is not binding on the city or the state of Illinois,” Zerkle said.
The airport authority is a governmental unit separate from city government. Three of the seven commissioners are appointed by the Sangamon County Board, and four commissioners are appointed by Springfield's mayor.
The authority's property tax district covers most of Springfield, parts of Chatham and unincorporated Sangamon County, as well as parts of a few smaller communities.
Contact Dean Olsen: firstname.lastname@example.org; (217) 836-1068; twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.
This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Springfield Airport Authority Board votes to sue city