District 300 Gets as Good as Possible Sears’ Subsidy Legislation, Passage Not Certain

A press release from District 300:

EDA issues clarified; D300 “reluctantly satisfied”

SPRINGFIELD – Several of District 300’s core concerns about the latest EDA legislation were successfully addressed in a hearing today (Nov. 28) at the State Capitol, prompting a House committee to advance the bill to the House of Representatives for debate on the House floor tomorrow.

Superintendent Michael Bregy held firm on the district’s concerns during a pivotal hearing in front of the House Revenue & Finance Committee this afternoon regarding House Amendment 3 of Senate Bill 397, which was filed yesterday afternoon.

With a group of about 30 parents, students, staff, and Board members dressed in red supporting him from the audience, Superintendent Bregy withstood tremendous pressure from Chairman John Bradley and Hoffman Estates officials to walk away without clarification on important issues.

Bregy was even called into the hallway at one point during the meeting to hash out some of the most controversial portions of the legislation.

Ultimately, the following issues were clarified to the district’s satisfaction today.

These understandings will be reconfirmed during House debate tomorrow to become part of the official record, which will serve as legal evidence if – in the future – any concerns arise over the implementation of this 15-year EDA extension.

  1. Sears seeks $125 million it took to build the infrastructure of its Hoffman Estates campus.

    Hoffman Estates will not be legally allowed to use EDA funds to make bond payments on the Sears Centre Arena. (It had already been agreed that the Village could not use EDA funds for the arena’s daily operating expenses.)

  2. If Sears moves away at any time after the first five years of the EDA extension, Hoffman Estates will only get one more year of its $5 million EDA management fee, after which point the EDA will automatically expire and all of the taxing bodies – including D300 – will start getting their full taxes.
  3. Sears will not make any claims for reimbursement from the EDA beyond the $125 million the company has already invested in the EDA property.
  4. The audit of Sears’ existing investments in the EDA would meet federal standards, according to the Sarbanes Oxley legal standards.

Also in this legislation, Hoffman Estates will no longer be able to “double dip.”

Right now, Hoffman Estates gets $5 million a year to “administrate” the EDA, but it also gets $650,000 a year for being one of the numerous taxing bodies in the EDA.

Under the new agreement, the village will be held to the $5 million annual fee. The only potential for the village to increase its take is if the property value increases, in which case all of the EDA taxing bodies would enjoy increased payments.

The legislation mandates that once Sears is repaid for its past investments, the EDA will automatically expire.

Sears could realistically be repaid within 10 to 12 years.  For D300, this potential early end of the EDA – compared to the 15 years that the legislation allows – would translate to an additional $30 million to $50 million down the road.

Superintendent Bregy said that the district has made substantial progress on most of its initial goals regarding the EDA.

“While we have achieved huge progress over the past few months, make no mistake that the end result was a huge compromise,”  Bregy said.

“We are reluctantly satisfied with the compromise plan.

“It is a very bittersweet victory for our community.”

With that in mind, Bregy is now asking the D300 community to discontinue calls, protests, and emails regarding the EDA legislation.

D300 leaders and supporters will continue to actively monitor the situation over the next couple of days, when first the House and then the Senate are expected to vote on this legislation.

It is still not clear whether it will be approved by either chamber, in light of some controversial pieces of the bill that are unrelated to the Sears EDA.

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