Hoffman Estates Delays Answer on District 300 Taxpayer Questions about Financial Viability of Sears Centre, Expect Future Shenanigans

The Village of Hoffman Estates is trying to pull a fast one over District 300 taxpayers by extending the diversion of school tax revenues in the “tax everyone outside of the Sears Tax Increment Financing District,” while hiding information about how the money has been used for the last two decades.

Here is a press release from parents seeking information about the viability of the Sears Center:

Village of Hoffman Estates Anything But Transparent in Response to FOIAs Filed by D300 Taxpayers/Parents

ALGONQUIN/CARPENTERSVILLE – Four separate parent/taxpayers from Algonquin and Carpentersville were preliminarily denied access to documents responsive to FOIA requests filed last week with the Village of Hoffman Estates, related to the
establishment, administration and renewal of the Sears Economic Development Area  (EDA) currently pending in the State Senate.

“I filed my FOIAs because as a parent and taxpayer in District 300, I would like to know how the property tax dollars were spent by Sears and Hoffman Estates, Hoffman Estates in particular, over the past 21 years.” Kathleen Burley, a mother and taxpayer from Algonquin, said Friday after receiving notice that Hoffman Estates is delaying production of the documents she requested.

“There has been no oversight of Hoffman Estates’ administration of the Sears EDA since it’s establishment in the late 1980s early ‘90s. We have no way of knowing what the money was spent on and by whom.”

The statute establishing the EDA does not require yearly audits of EDA expenditures as is required of Tax Increment Financings (TIFs) in Illinois.

“The only oversight required in the original EDA legislation was the requirement that the developer and the municipality (Sears and Hoffman Estates respectively) file initial paperwork with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) when the EDA was first established and later gave notice to effected taxing bodies, like CUSD 300, if material changes were to be made to the EDA.

The Sears EDA is the only one of its kind in the state.

In addition, language in legislation to extend the life of the EDA, filed last May at the request of Hoffman Estates, gives Hoffman broad new powers on what it can spend the EDA funds on for the next 15 years, including

“acquisition and operation” of “publicly-owned buildings”

which the women point out could very well include the struggling Sears Center which is now owned by Hoffman Estates.

This Sept. 2, 2010, Chicago Tribune article may be one source for the District 300 taxpayers' suspicion that the unique Tax Increment Financing District legislation contains more than Hoffman Estates is talking about, that it may really about forcing District 300 taxpayers to subsidize Sears Centre operating expenses.

“We have no way of knowing what Hoffman and Sears plans on doing with the EDA funds over the next 15 years,” said Missy Graf, a Carpentersville parent and member of D300’s newly formed Board Legislative Committee.

“Because no one in the legislature is demanding that they tell us what they intend to do with the fund before they divert hundreds of millions of tax dollars that should be going to D300 schools to Sears and Hoffman over the next 15 years.”

The jump page headline "Sears Centre fallout could hit taxpayers hard over 20 years," combined with the quoted language in the TIF extension bill would lead a rational person to grab their phone and call their state legislators in opposition to the proposed legislation.

Indeed, the new legislation seeks to do away with the few reporting requirements in existence when the original EDA was put in place.

“Why do they object to having to file minimal paperwork related to what is going to be done with the money over the next 15 years”? asks Leslie Russo, parent and taxpayer from Algonquin.

“Their attempt to write the very minimal reporting requirements out of the EDA legislation and their refusal to produce records that I requested relevant to the very same issues before the veto session in Springfield begins at the end of October, begs the question – what are they trying to hide?”

The women contend that the legislation pending in the senate (Senate Bill 540) that would extend the life of the EDA, should be pulled from the Senate until audits of past money spent and a report on what Sears and Hoffman intend on doing with
funds can be done and reviewed. They would also like to know, specifically, why Hoffman Estates needs the power to pay for and operate publicly-owned buildings with EDA funds when the only publically-owned property in the EDA at this time is the Sears Center.

“These are very serious questions that should be answered before they even consider extending the EDA,” contends Nancy Zettler, D300 parent, Taxpayer and Chair of Advance 300, a community group that supports the district.

“If the EDA is extended, hundreds of millions of property tax dollars will be diverted away from D300 schools to Hoffman Estates to use in almost any way they want.

“They spend thousands of dollars more per child per year in their schools than we do here, while they enjoy the use of the taxes that should go to our schools.

“They should have to report on how they intend on spending the money if the EDA is extended. The 21,000 kids in D300 shouldn’t have to sacrifice their futures to pay for Hoffman’s bad business decisions.”

For More Information Contact:

  • Kathleen Burley at (847) 542 3272
  • Missy Graf at (847) 426-6658
  • Leslie Russo at (847) 458-1941
  • Nancy Zettler at (847) 844-7993

Comments

Hoffman Estates Delays Answer on District 300 Taxpayer Questions about Financial Viability of Sears Centre, Expect Future Shenanigans — 5 Comments

  1. Sponsor legislation requiring annual reporting on how TIF revenues are spent.

  2. Their is already legislation that requires annual reports for TIF districts. Normally, the local government entitity or their designee prepares them and they are required to file them with the state comptroller’s office. Here’s a page where I collected about 10 of them from the Village of Schaumburg via FOIA. The links are about halfway down the page. http://www.schaumburgfreedom.com/transparency/

    They must list all vendors who received over $10,000 per year on the form.

  3. Also, If these people are having a hard time getting them from the Village they should try the State Comptroller’s Office. They might also be able to get them from any government body that sits on the Joint Review Board for that taxing body which would include any school districts, municipalities, park & library districts, and the county. At least that’s the way it works in Cook County.

  4. Actually Brian, what you are referring to are requirements for TIFs. This is an EDA (Economic Development Area) that was created specifically for Sears and which is the only one of its kind in the state. You are righ,t the TIFs are required to conduct audits every year and file them with the Comptroller’s office. There are no such requirements for the Sears EDA! In fact, the only reporting requirements of any kind were that Sears and Hoffman file paperwork with the DCEO in the very beginning stages defining the actual area to be encompassed by the EDA and the original contract between Sears and Hoffman Estates regarding how the EDA fund would be administered and what it would be used to pay for – it is a VERY broad document.

    But apparently even those very minimal requirements have been too burdensome for Sears and Hoffman – they try to do away with those requirements in the amended legislation.

    We think that they do not want us to know what they are up to!

    Thanks to Cal for helping us bring this to light. If you’d like more information or if you’d like to help us stop this travesty you can go to advance300yes.com.

  5. Sears is not a TIF district it is an EDA. The only one in the State of Illinois.
    To my knowledge, Hoffman Estates has never been audited on spending. There is virtually no oversight on the EDA.

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