Dist. 15 Express Concerns Over Possible Bears Stadium


Palatine Elementary School Dist. 15 officials want a “seat at the table” when it comes to property tax dollars potentially being withheld from the district to develop a new stadium for the Chicago Bears on the former Arlington Park property in Arlington Heights.

For that reason, board members Feb. 8 approved retaining a lobbyist, if needed in the future, to support the district during discussions down in Springfield.

Supt. Laurie Heinz told the board Feb. 8 the district has been proactive in getting involved in potential impacts a new stadium would have on the district, since the property lies within the district’s boundaries. She said the district has sent a letter to the Village of Arlington Heights and engaged a law firm to make sure the district is doing all they can so they can have their voices heard on potential property tax dollar losses.

“We want to make sure we have a seat at the table so our voice is not lost with this large complex,” Heinz said. “In this new legislation (Senate Bill 1350), it doesn’t consider local school districts and shifts the costs of developing the new stadium from the owners to potentially taxpayers.”

She added this proposed development would have a significant impact on the district because the Bears are only negotiating with the Village of Arlington Heights and no other government bodies that would also be affected. 

“We are not interested in stopping the Bears from coming to Arlington Heights, but we want to ensure students, staff, and local residents’ needs are clearly articulated and benefit from a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Heinz said. 

Ares Dalianis of the firm Franczek P.C. explained to the school board Feb. 8 that the recently introduced Senate Bill 1350 or “Mega Project ” Legislation is being discussed in Springfield. It entails the developer must spend at least $500 million and the term of the tax incentive agreement would be for 23 years, which could be extended by the Village of Arlington Heights to a maximum 40 years.

It would entail the valuation of the property staying constant for up to 40 years and the district would not be able to collect any increased dollars to that property for 23-40 years if the bill were to pass.

If this bill were to pass, Dalianis called it similar to “In lieu of taxes” where an annual agreed upon payment would be paid to the Village of Arlington Heights by the developer. The annual “special payment” is paid by the developer to the village and distributed within 30 days to other taxing districts. The “special payment” is the annual amount paid in addition to property taxes, but less than what a property is fully worth in that given year. This provides an incentive to the developer and a cost saving measure for the developer to get the project underway. He also said that other taxing districts would have no role in the establishment of these “special payments.”

”School districts are exclusively funded by property taxes and usually do not receive a lot of state and federal money and live and die by property taxes,” Dalianis said, adding the Village of Arlington Heights would still receive sales tax dollars from everything sold at the new stadium. 

He told the board it was important to make sure the district has a spokesperson, a seasoned veteran of Springfield, in the halls of the General Assembly. He added the Bears have obtained three lobbyists and it is “prudent” for Dist. 15 to work with a lobbyist as well since this could affect the district with possibly more students coming into the district in the future if and once the development is completed and residences are constructed as part of the overall proposed plan.  

Dalianis expects the General Assembly to decide on this bill by May 19 before they break for the summer. He added there has been mixed reviews from the legislative community since this would be a “revolutionary type of incentive in Illinois that would provide hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in public subsidy to a privately owned football stadium.”

According to Dalianis, having a lobbyist for the district allows the district to communicate their concerns with elected officials downstate and they will be the district’s “legislative advisor.”

Heinz added the district supports this potential project, but it has to be sensible and not at the cost of the public school district. 

The post Dist. 15 Express Concerns Over Possible Bears Stadium first appeared on Journal & Topics Media Group.

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February 23, 2023 at 11:19PM

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