District 214 open to possible Bears TIF at Arlington Park

While officials in Palatine Township Elementary School District 15 have promised to fight against a possible tax increment financing district for the Chicago Bears redevelopment at Arlington Park, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 leaders are more open to the idea.

"As it relates to a TIF in that space, we greatly respect the leadership at the village of Arlington Heights, and would just want to ensure that any potential TIF met both the spirit and the letter of the TIF legislation," Superintendent David Schuler told the Daily Herald.

The special taxing mechanism - where property taxes above a certain level are diverted away from schools and other taxing bodies, into economic development efforts - has been bandied about as a possible way to help pay for the Bears' proposed $5 billion mixed-use project on the 326-acre property.

While the Bears haven't made a formal TIF request, even the suggestion of it has drawn criticism from District 15 Superintendent Laurie Heinz, Americans for Prosperity Illinois Deputy State Director Brian Costin, and some residents.

But Schuler, head of the high school district based in Arlington Heights, said he doesn't anticipate the Bears project or a possible TIF district having a negative financial effect on the district.

"That could change, when we see more details," he said. "And if something's in a TIF, but we still get the base increment - if that's more than what we had been receiving, that's a gain, too, even though it may not be as much of a gain as we would have liked until the property gets more developed and it comes off the TIF."

While District 214 may be open to a Bears TIF to start - in which property tax revenues would be funneled back into the redevelopment for 23 years - the district has a clear position on TIF extensions, which Springfield lawmakers can sanction for up to another 12 years.

It was Mount Prospect's creation of a new TIF that covered much of the same downtown area as a retired TIF that led District 214 to sue the village in 2017. Both sides eventually settled.

But with respect to the Bears project in Arlington Heights, Schuler said it's too early in the process for him to be involved in conversations about finances and the effect on the school district. He trusts village officials will include him in those talks when the time is right.

"There's definitely different incentives that would be beneficial to schools more than others," Schuler said about other public financing that could help the Bears. "At the same time, I'm the superintendent, not the mayor or the village manager. So we're respectful that they do what is in the best interest of the community, and today we feel like they've done that, and we wouldn't anticipate seeing that change."

While the sprawling Arlington Park site is entirely within the boundaries of the K-8 District 15, the property is split between District 214 and Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211. Conceptual plans place the proposed stadium within District 211's boundaries to the west, while the mixed-use area of restaurants, stores, offices, hotels, homes and parks would be on District 214's side to the east.

That would mean students living in the proposed residential neighborhood - including higher-density, multifamily properties near the train station and lower-density townhouses and multifamily units further south and east - would go to District 214, and Rolling Meadows High School specifically.

Schuler said it's hard to know the enrollment impact without more detailed housing plans, including the number of bedrooms proposed.

Even still, he said he wouldn't anticipate the need for school building additions due to increased enrollment, since Rolling Meadows High can accommodate 2,500 students - fewer than 2,000 go there now.

In a story in Tuesday's Daily Herald, District 15's Heinz suggested the new housing could generate hundreds or even thousands of students, and would require new classrooms at schools in nearby Rolling Meadows, or potentially even a new school within the Arlington Park property.

District 211 officials didn't respond to most questions from the Daily Herald about the potential impact of the Bears redevelopment on their finances and enrollment. They only said that two parcels that are part of what is currently presented as the stadium district generated about $195,000 in tax revenue for the district in 2020.

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