SPRINGFIELD -- A compromise that could keep Sears Holdings Inc. in Hoffman Estates and placate the complaints of Community Unit District 300 is in the works, but whether the plan finds success on both fronts remains to be seen.
State Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, said Monday that he is working on a deal that would grant Sears its wish of an extension of its existing tax break, as well as penalize the company if it leaves and send more money to District 300, based in Carpentersville.
"We've made significant progress," Kotowski said.
Republican state Sen. Pam Althoff of Crystal Lake agrees. She said all the involved parties have been in touch with her "constantly" and that talks have progressed in the last several days. Althoff cautioned, though, that details could change as the legislation is readied for a vote in the coming days or weeks.
Lawmakers couldn't say how much would go to District 300, which estimates it would get $14 million more a year in property tax money if the 20-year-old tax breaks for Sears were allowed to expire.
"Everyone's going to benefit, and everyone's going to share in the pain," Althoff said.
Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod has been involved in the talks, too, and said the matter of who gets how much money should be ironed out only after Sears gets its tax deal extended.
"The extension has to be done first," McLeod said. "Our intention is to hopefully provide more money."
The news of a percolating deal came as hundreds of District 300 teachers, administrators, students and parents bused to Springfield Monday for a protest at the state Capitol.
Meanwhile, Sears executives told the Daily Herald editorial board Monday that they'll decide soon whether to make good on threats about moving to another state, putting pressure on lawmakers to approve a tax deal before the end of their session in mid-November.
"We intend on making our decision by the end of the year," said Misty Redman, Sears' vice president for government affairs.
During District 300's noon rally, a line of demonstrators marched along the Capitol grounds chanting, some wearing matching T-shirts.
"Our message is way too big for us not to show up today," District 300 Superintendent Michael Bregy told those who trekked to Springfield for the rally.
Craig Zieleniewski, principal of Perry Elementary School in Carpentersville, said his school alone had to hire 12 substitutes to cover for teachers attending the rally.
Bregy acknowledged that few lawmakers were in Springfield Monday, the day before a full session is planned. But he said the district could only get a permit for Monday, and he wanted to go forward, saying it's important for the district's long-term future.
"The students shouldn't have to bear the full burden of the tax incentive for Sears," Zieleniewski said.
State Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, criticized District 300, saying some groups that try to negotiate in Springfield without being cooperative end up getting left out of talks.
"They need to tone it down a bit. I've asked them. I've asked their lobbyists," said Crespo, a co-sponsor of a bill to extend tax incentives for Sears for another 15 years.
Sears could be looking for other incentives besides an extension of the tax incentives. Redman said Monday that the company has contacted Gov. Pat Quinn's office to ask about EDGE credits -- an incentive that rewards new job creation that has been awarded by Quinn to Motorola Mobility in Libertyville and Warrenville-based Navistar, two other companies that had threatened to leave Illinois.