Hoffman Estates village trustees unanimously passed a resolution at a special board meeting Monday asking the state to make "all reasonable efforts" to keep Sears Holdings Corp. headquarters in the village.
Before voting, Mayor William McLeod said if Sears, which provides more than 6,000 jobs at its headquarters, decided to relocate it "would be devastating to the entire state of Illinois and the Northwest suburbs, not just Hoffman Estates and the immediate area."
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Despite the board's quick action, more than 30 people representing Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300 were at the meeting to voice their opposition to the resolution and to the possible extension of a tax incentive package designed to keep Sears in Illinois.
The Economic Development Area was established by the state in 1989 to help Sears move from Chicago to the Prairie Stone campus in Hoffman Estates. It allows Sears to keep property tax dollars earmarked for local taxing bodies -- including District 300 -- and spend them on the Prairie Stone development.
With the deal set to expire in 2012, Sears is considering offers from other states, including Texas and Ohio, to relocate its headquarters. Hoping to prevent that, village officials and state lawmakers are working to extend the incentive for 15 years.
District 300 officials say that if current incentives for Sears are extended, its schools will lose about $14 million a year.
At Monday's meeting Superintendent Michael Bregy said he believes village officials are motivated to extend the deal because of the Sears Centre. By extending the incentives, "you have every ability possible to pay for and operate the Sears Centre on the backs of 21,000 students in District 300," he said.
Other District 300 representatives, including Dundee-Crown High School teacher Bruce Taylor, said they are confident Sears will leave Hoffman Estates. "There could be no more foolish of an act than to sit back and to think that Sears won't abandon this state," he said. "If you pass this EDA and extend the benefits that are directly tied to this property that the corporation feeds on, then they will have that much easier of a time selling it and leaving this state."
Carpentersville Trustee Doug Marks also addressed the board. "What this EDA is doing is transferring a lot of financial burden to my community," he said. "Stop and think, what would you do if another community had the ability to take money out of your subsidiary and spend it at their will?"
Arthur Janura, corporation counsel for Hoffman Estates, dismissed many of the statements made by District 300 supporters.
He said claims that the EDA would make it easier for Sears to leave are "completely incorrect" and that saying that the EDA would be passed to benefit the Sears Centre "also is not true."
He also noted that while a small portion of District 300 lies within the village, there are "no residential units, no students and no District 300 school facilities located in this area" and that Hoffman Estates taxpayers "should not be called upon to fund schools located in other communities at the risk of losing over 6,200 jobs (provided by Sears)."
Sears would be required to keep at least 4,000 jobs at its headquarters if it decides to stay, Janura added.
Trustee Gary Filafas agreed with the other board members. "I'm disappointed in the fact that the attack seems to be on us for trying to do not only what the state, but the county, has invested interests in order to have business retention here in Hoffman Estates," he said, noting that he plans to attend a rally that District 300 is hosting on Thursday night at Jacobs High School. "It's not our place to help solve their fiscal mismanagement."
The Schaumburg village board is expected to pass a similar resolution supporting the retention of Sears Holdings Corp. on Tuesday.