From Carpentersville District 300:
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AREA (EDA) FACTS
Is Amendment 3 of Illinois Senate Bill 540 the right way – or even the best way – to keep Sears in Illinois?
Illinois leaders are expected to make their final decision during the upcoming veto session
(Oct. 25-27 and Nov. 8-10) on legislation that proponents claim is needed to keep 6,000+ Sears jobs in Illinois, but which would devastate the local school district for the next 15 years.
The following information is intended to clarify the issues from the perspective of
that school district, which serves 21,000 students.
The momentum and truth are on our side, but time is not.
More information is available at: http://bit.ly/NoWayEDA
MYTH #1: Community Unit School District 300 (D300) is opposed to tax breaks for Sears.
FACT: We are not opposed to the state providing financial incentives to Sears. We fully understand that state leaders may want to offer an incentive package to Sears in order to stay competitive with offers from other states. But we believe strongly that any such incentives should be the financial responsibility of the entire state, not only the D300 community. Therefore, we are specifically opposed to the legislation that will be voted upon soon: Amendment 3 of State Senate Bill 540. This particular piece of legislation uses D300 school property taxes as the #1 source of the Sears tax breaks. Equally troubling is the fact that this legislation will further decrease transparency in the Village of Hoffman Estates’ management of the Economic Development Area (EDA) funds, and it will enable the Village of Hoffman Estates to determine how little school property taxes it gives to D300 and how much of our taxes it keeps for its own operating budget – which would may include the village-owned Sears Centre Arena as allowed in Amendment 3.
MYTH #2: D300 is pushing Sears to move out of the state, which would ultimately hurt D300.
FACT: We have consistently expressed our passion for keeping Sears here in Illinois. Sears employees are our friends, neighbors, and the parents of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of our students. We believe there can be a win-win for Sears, students, and taxpayers! This belief is shared by a growing number of state leaders and news media. We continue to pursue collaboration in creating an alternative plan that helps Sears without relying on school property taxes. However, many members of our community tell us that they want to protest against Sears, boycott Sears, and “shame” Sears. Sears employees and their friends tell us that “Sears will probably move anyway.” So time and time again, we continue to ask our community not to antagonize Sears, and instead to direct their frustration to its rightful source: Amendment 3, which is being promoted by Village of Hoffman Estates as the EDA’s financial manager. In our view, this is an EDA management issue far more than a Sears issue.
MYTH #3: D300 has enjoyed all of the benefit of Sears moving into the area with none of the burden.
FACT: With Sears came the children of the Sears employees. Since Sears moved its headquarters into D300 boundaries over 20 years ago, D300 student enrollment has nearly doubled. Hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Sears employees live in D300, and so D300 is responsible for the cost of educating their children. The small fraction of the D300 school property taxes paid by the businesses within the EDA that actually makes it into the schools merely helps to offset the expenses of educating the students that Sears brought to our community.
MYTH #4: D300 can’t “lose” what it doesn’t have.
FACT: The cost of operating our district will continue to grow, while the EDA would continue to shift the tax burden from Hoffman Estates residents onto D300 residents. Think of our fight against Amendment 3 as the “anti-referendum.” Our effort to block Amendment 3 is directly tied to our commitment to not seek another referendum for many, many more years by ensuring that school property taxes actually go to the schools. For the past several years, our financial projections have shown that without the increase in funding when the EDA expired in 2013, D300 would enter a period of extreme deficit. D300 is a growing district. We are responsible for the costs associated with 300-400 additional students every year. (This enrollment rate will further increase once the housing market rebounds.) Our expenses also continue to rise for utilities, fuel, and insurance. Moving forward, if we don’t ensure that the D300 school property taxes paid by the businesses within the EDA actually go to D300, we will need to look at cutting more educational programs, opportunities, and jobs.
MYTH #5: If the EDA tax breaks weren’t put in place 20+ years ago, the area never would have been developed and D300 would not have gotten any increase in property tax revenue from the area.
FACT: This statement by Hoffman Estates is intended to distract from the real issue at hand: Amendment 3. We are not concerned about the past so much as the future. Our complaint is not about the $200+ million in school property taxes that D300 contributed to the development of the Sears EDA property over the past 20 years. Our complaint is regarding the proposed extension of these school property tax breaks in Amendment 3. We believe 23 years has been long enough. The EDA property has been developed and is no longer “blighted” or “economically deprived.”
MYTH #6: An extension of the EDA tax breaks, as proposed in Amendment 3, is essential to keeping Sears in Illinois.
FACT: No one has been able to clearly explain how Amendment 3 will keep Sears here. But here’s what we do know about Amendment 3:
- It does not require Sears to keep ANY jobs in the EDA. It only requires the EDA property, which includes many other businesses with thousands of their own employees, to keep a total of 4,000 jobs. So Sears could move away and take all of its jobs without violating the terms of Amendment 3.
- It will enable the Village of Hoffman Estates to buy and run the Sears Centre Arena using school property taxes from the EDA.
- The tax breaks would be assigned to the property, not to Sears itself. So they will make the Sears property more marketable for Sears to sell.
MYTH #7: Passage of Amendment 3 would extend the current terms of the EDA funding distribution.
FACT: The specific terms of the funding distribution would not be determined until after the Senate votes on Amendment 3 (if such a vote cannot be stopped). But as the Chicago Tribune articulately stated in its October 19, 2011, opinion against Amendment 3, “That’s backward. The details on revenue sharing should be settled first.” (Tribune editorial: http://www.d300.org/document/
MYTH #8: D300 will not get tax money from an empty building.
FACT: If Sears moves, Sears will still have to pay its property taxes on the building.
MYTH #9: The Village of Hoffman Estates has conducted audits of the EDA and has openly posted all of this financial information on its website.
FACT: The Village of Hoffman Estates has only conducted a general audit of the Village. No outside group has ever conducted an audit of the EDA in the past 20 years, to our knowledge. There is supposed to be one Village of Hoffman Estates checking account, called a “Special Tax Allocation Fund,” into which all EDA revenues are deposited and out of which all EDA payments can be transparently tracked. Unfortunately, the Village has numerous checking accounts that shift around the EDA money and prevent the public or press from being able to follow the money trail. Furthermore, the Village has repeatedly stonewalled several D300 parents who filed requests a month ago (Sept. 16) under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to access basic financial records, emails, meeting minutes and agendas, and other documents related to the EDA. The Village told the parents that there are no records of any meeting in the past 10 years regarding a potential extension of the EDA. Also, the Village has charged the parents more than $1,000 in copy fees, despite the parents asking to receive the documents via email. (The law requires the documents be provided in the format that they were requested, such as via email instead of hard copies.) The Village has told the parents that they won’t get to see the documents for at least 5 more days after the payment for copy fees.
MYTH #10: D300 Superintendent Michael Bregy has refused to meet with Hoffman Estates Village Management.
FACT: Superintendent Bregy has never received nor turned down any request to meet with Hoffman Estates managers. He has, on the other hand, visited Hoffman Estates Village Board meetings on two occasions asking village managers to meet and work with him. He was joined by several D300 students, parents, and teachers who pleaded with Hoffman Estates leaders to abandon Amendment 3 and redirect their energies into a win-win for Sears, students, and taxpayers. Visit this link to watch an 8-minute YouTube video of one such Board meeting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Since the EDA property is in D300 and does not include Hoffman Estates school districts 211 and 54, Hoffman Estates children do not have to sacrifice school property taxes like D300 children.
Each year, D300 has $5,100 less to spend on each high school student than Hoffman Estates high schools, and $2,500 less per elementary student.
D300 classes are some of the largest in the state, with 37 in elementary classes and 40+ in high school classes.
If Hoffman Estates students were impacted by the EDA like D300 students, the Village would not be pushing for an extension of the EDA that relies so heavily on school property taxes.