Capital Region International Airport at Center of Tax Debate

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

Ingham County homeowners pay about $5 million a year to keep the Capital Region International Airport up and running.

But Lansing's airport isn't in Lansing, or Ingham County for that matter. It's just across city and county lines in DeWitt Township and Clinton County. And although DeWitt Township collects property taxes from the airport, neither its residents nor those in the rest of Clinton County, pay a millage to support the airport.

That doesn't sit well with Lansing City Councilmember Brian Jeffries.

"It's an issue of tax fairness," said Jeffires. "The burden is on the residents of Ingham County but the benefit is shared regionally."

This isn't a new concern. It's been going on since the airport was transferred from state hands to the Capital Airport Authority in the 1970's. When the Authority was first formed, there was an expectation that all three counties, Ingham, Clinton and Eaton would pass a millage to pay to help keep the airport running. Ingham did. Eaton and Clinton did not.

Lansing's budget woes this year caused the issue to come up again. Included in a package of recommended alternative budget cuts from Jeffries and fellow Councilmembers Carol Wood and Eric Hewitt was the idea of annexing the airport and bringing it into Lansing's city limits.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and the rest of the City Council rejected that idea fairly quickly because annexation would be nearly impossible and the city and DeWitt Township were already working together on a revenue sharing agreement.

DeWitt Township Manager Rod Taylor says he doesn't take annexation talk seriously. Taylor also added that the amount DeWitt Township brings in through property taxes from the airport isn't nearly as much as the size of the approximately 2,000 acre airport property would lead you to believe... only about $40,000 a year.

"It's not significant," said Taylor. "If this were any other development, the tax revenue would've been much much greater."

Jeffries says Lansing would likely earn more than $40,000 however. That's because the city's millage rate is higher and Lansing could bring in income tax revenue, but Jeffries wasn't sure how much that would ultimately total.

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  • by Anonymous on May 19, 2011 at 10:02 AM
    This has been an ongoing issue for years. The city has attempted to annex the airport at least once in the last ten years, but was unsuccessful because Dewitt Twp didn't want to let it go and additional parts of the deal didn't work out. The Dewitt TWP supervisor is downplaying the importance of the tax revenue to push interest away from the proposal, by stating it only collects 40k a year. I'm sure Dewitt Twp wants that money just as the City does, its revenue. Airport management has attempted to get Clinton and Eaton County onto the Authority Board for years without success because they are bullies, and why pay when you already don't. It seems a bit unfair that since the airport sits in Clinton County that Dewitt Twp collects the taxes when Ingham County taxpayers are fitting the upkeep bill. It will be interesting to see what happens in the long run, but I would bet nothing at all unless Ingham County Taxpayers start putting pressure on the Ingham County Board of Comissioners and Mayor to make it right. If it brought more oversight to the management of the airport authority board, and executive and deputy executive directors of the airport that would be a bonus too.
  • by Anonymous on May 19, 2011 at 01:25 AM
    It is about time Ingham County fixes this situation. Why should Clinton County get the tax revenue when they contribute nothing. Just another example of the Ingham County Board of Commissioners sitting on their hands when real issues need to be addressed.
    • reply
      by Dan on May 19, 2011 at 07:05 AM in reply to
      I agree. Ingham County pays a millage to support the airport, tax revenues should go back to the city and Ingham County.
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