Lansing Municipal Airport vs. Cook County leasehold tax – Chapter 3


Local Voices

Bob Malkas, former Manager of the Lansing Municipal Airport

Chapter 3 of this project will suggest a course of action that would posture Lansing into a position to win this political combat. The ultimate goal would be to have Cook County exempt all Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) doing business at Lansing both now and in the future from leasehold taxes.

The Village should send a letter to Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle requesting a meeting to discuss the leasehold question: it should be signed by the Mayor and all Trustees to show a united front.

She should accept the request to meet because of comments she made in August 2013.

Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore organized an economic forum for south suburban governments and business leaders. It was held at the Ford Hangar.

President Preckwinkle did speak. She said, “We’ve got to figure out how to market Cook County and other regions in Illinois.”

The record is clear and should be made known to her and Lansing residents.

She should be reminded of a 1999 letter written by James M. Houlihan, Cook County Assessor at the time, that defended the rationale behind the tax. His letter was a response initiated by Lansing requesting the County to reconsider the new tax imposed upon Lansing because it would impede plans to develop the airport as an economic engine for the County.

Anticipating that legal advice would be needed, the airport commissioned an attorney to investigate the history of the tax and how it would impact Lansing Municipal Airport (LMA) and what courses of action should be taken.

He determined the revenue for the County would be insignificant but would have a devastating impact on the FBOs—which it did.

What the County never understood was the FAA knows that it takes revenue for the local sponsor—Lansing in this case—to operate a regional airport.

Consider the importance of reliever airport systems: they provide funding to help develop assets toward financial self-sufficiency. To show this commitment they provided LMA with over $35 million to make that happen.

It should be obvious to see that a fully developed LMA could be integrated into plans to promote economic development in the south suburbs—not so if every new developer would have to contend with a leasehold tax.

The airport’s Transportation Improvement Proposal form shows what could have been done and the construction jobs that could be created, all paid for by the FAA.

A good start to make in correcting this error would be to set into action a process to exempt LMA from leasehold tax requirements so that firms interested in moving their businesses to Lansing would not have to contend with unnecessary obstructions.

The new businesses will come when Lansing commits to the extension of its north-south runway.

Any operator’s agreement should be straightforward and be designed to benefit both parties. It should not be necessary to play word games to get around ways to appease the Assessor.

Always remember if Lansing cannot expand its revenues by providing opportunities for business growth, it will be necessary for the local sponsor to cover deficits.

I can provide all the documentation I refer to in this posting. And if I were allowed to consult the airport’s leasehold files I would expand on the arguments.

Bob Malkas

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