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Our View: Keep airport management with city

Published: Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 11:21 p.m. CST

We appreciate the contributions that DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport makes to the community. We’d just rather it not contribute another layer of government to our property tax bills. 

The idea behind creating an independent regional airport authority is that the greater region benefits from having the airport on Peace Road, but the city of DeKalb is the only one supporting it financially. 

The Illinois Department of Transportation in 2012 estimated that the airport generated $10.7 million in economic activity and created more than 80 jobs in the area. The airport also hosts about 30,000 flights a year and has 30 hangars.

It even served as an alternate host site for Corn Fest for five years, and still allows public attractions including vintage aircraft to land there.

Airport Manager Tom Cleveland also is working to have the airport certified for use by charter flights of more than 30 passengers, which could allow Northern Illinois University athletic teams to use the airport rather than traveling to Rockford to fly to road games, and in turn generating more revenue for the airport.

Although it’s true that other governments such as the city of Sycamore and Northern Illinois University benefit from having the airport nearby, there are other ways to raise more funds than creating another layer of government and increasing property taxes. 

More government is one thing we don’t need. Illinois already is far and away the leader in the number of local governments with more than 6,000. Accountability to the public already is too diffuse, and our property taxes already are too high.

An airport authority could be created only through a popular vote or by state legislators, a scenario that seems unlikely. If it were to happen, no doubt there would be a separate board, which would hold occasional public meetings that few if anyone ever attended.

Voters would probably elect the commissioners, but most would have little idea about the people for whom they were voting. Board decisions could be made virtually in a vacuum, and by taking just a little bit of money from many property owners, a large sum could be amassed for spending.

There already are far too many small government bodies operating under the radar in this way, and we need fewer of them, not more.

DeKalb Taylor has struggled to make money in recent years, but it not unique in this regard. About 69 percent of airports worldwide lose money, according to a 2013 report from Airports Council International.

Recommendations from the Federal Aviation Administration for increasing revenue include things like alternative uses for airport property – like solar panels or even a blueberry farm – as well as offering more services or attracting new users.

That’s easy to say and more challenging to do, and it appears the airport is working to increase its customers. Perhaps if there is a simple way to demonstrate the economic benefit that individual communities other than DeKalb derive from the airport, city officials could persuade more local governments to chip in to help.

Our region might need an airport, but it doesn’t need more government and higher taxes to support one.

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