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updated: 10/26/2011 1:27 PM

Hoffman Estates confident in Sears fight despite D300's Springfield visit

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  • Hoffman Estates village officials remain confident that state legislators will support their plan to keep Sears in the village. District 300 has launched a campaign to defeat the plan.

       Hoffman Estates village officials remain confident that state legislators will support their plan to keep Sears in the village. District 300 has launched a campaign to defeat the plan.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer


Last May, Hoffman Estates officials, fearful that Sears Holding Co. would be lured to another state, launched a high-profile campaign to extend the property tax breaks approved in 1989 that kept the company in Illinois and brought it to the Northwest suburb.

Village officials say they remain confident in their efforts to win legislators' support despite recent protests and the presentation of an alternative plan in Springfield by Community Unit District 300, which says it stands to lose $14 million a year if the Hoffman Estates plan is approved.

Village officials said Tuesday they had not yet seen District 300's counterproposal, which would require a $2 million sacrifice annually from the village, the state, and other taxing bodies including District 300, and which would net Sears $30 million less over 15 years than the village plan.

Hoffman Estates Mayor William McLeod said based off the little information he knew, it didn't sound like much of a compromise.

Arthur Janura, village corporation counsel for Hoffman Estates, said he felt like District 300 isn't taking seriously the threat of Sears leaving Illinois and taking more than 6,000 jobs with it.

"I think there is a very real possibility that Sears could relocate and District 300 is the only taxing district that is voicing a strenuous objection," he said, adding that there are no District 300 students or services in Hoffman Estates. "They're playing with fire and its unfortunate."

He said he is also not pleased with what he called false claims that have been made recently by students, parents, school officials and on the website about the incentive package, known as an Economic Development Area, or EDA.

"I'm only concerned if the lawmakers believe some of the misinformation that's being spread," he said.

Statements Janura disputed included claims that the village and Sears will have free reign to do whatever they want with the EDA, when the agreement really comes with strict requirements on how funds can be spent, and that District 300 has never gotten any money from the EDA, when documents show it has received $21 million to date.

He also disagreed with accusations that funds from the EDA will be used by the village to run the village-owned Sears Centre, saying that in 2010 operating revenues at the arena covered 100 percent of the facility's operating cost.

But District 300 in a news release cited a sentence in the EDA extension legislation saying funds "may be used to acquire and operate other municipal property within the economic development area." The district wants that sentence eliminated.

When asked what the village is doing to counter District 300's recent campaign against the property tax breaks, Janura said officials are "just trying to get the facts out there." He said he is urging people to view information about the EDA, along with letters and resolutions from surrounding villages supporting the extension, on the Hoffman Estates website,

Janura provided Hoffman Estates' calculations of what would happen with property tax money with or without the EDA. Now in the EDA, 14 taxing bodies receive a total of about $5 million a year, Janura said. Of that, District 300 gets the most money, receiving about $2.9 million in 2010. Without the EDA, the district would get around $14.9 million annually, Janura said.

In 2010 the village received $649,955, but it would receive about $3.6 million without the EDA.

But the village and others say the total economic benefit of having Sears in Hoffman Estates offsets the property tax losses.

Janura said lobbyists for the village and McLeod will be making visits to the capital in the coming days and weeks as lawmakers come closer to voting on the issue.

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