District 211 board delays vote to join others in hiring lobbyist to fight Bears tax break

Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board members voted 3-2 Thursday to postpone joining two neighboring districts in hiring a lobbyist for a proposed state bill offering a tax break to the Chicago Bears' stadium project, until a specific individual is recommended.

Board members in Palatine Township Elementary District 15 and Northwest Suburban High School District 214 authorized their superintendents to jointly hire a lobbyist once a field of candidates has been narrowed to a finalist.

District 211 board member Pete Dombrowski made the motion that his district not give that authority until after the finalist has been named. Fellow board members Mark Cramer and Steven Rosenblum agreed with him.

Board members Anna Klimkowicz and Curtis Bradley voted against the delay, while their colleagues Kim Cavill and Tim McGowan were absent.

District 211 Superintendent Lisa Small said she would ask the other districts if they want to wait for her district or move forward on their own.

If they agree, she would schedule a special meeting on Tuesday for the District 211 board's consent.

An initial pool of eight potential lobbyists has already been narrowed to three.

"The three final candidates will be advanced to a second-round interview by the superintendents of school districts 15, 211, and 214 and others, with the expectation of making a final recommendation to the school districts shortly thereafter," Small wrote in a memo to the board. "It is recommended that the district engage a lobbyist to aid all three school districts in maintaining effective communication and response to the mega project legislation."

Small told the board that costs are estimated between $7,000 and $12,000 per month for a projected period of about five months. That total cost would be divided among the three school districts.

While District 15 covers the entire 326-acre Arlington Park property the Bears bought Wednesday, District 211 shares the corner where the team is proposing a stadium. District 214 has the remainder, where a mixed-use development of residences and businesses is envisioned.

During District 214's initial discussion of the proposed tax-break legislation two weeks ago, board member Millie Palmer questioned whether the three districts would necessarily feel the same way due to the different impacts they would experience.

The proposed Payments in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, financing mechanism has been used in 35 other states, but mostly as an incentive for developments such as large electric vehicle plants, battery factories and other manufacturers.

Under the system, a municipality - in this case Arlington Heights - would negotiate payments to local governments like school and library districts, while property tax assessments on the site are frozen for at least 23 years, and potentially up to 40 if the municipality believes it is a "substantial public benefit."

Attorney Ares Dalianis, who represents all three districts, has said that's a low bar for the tax break to be extended an additional 17 years.

In kicking off the quest for a unified front earlier this month, District 214 officials emphasized that they support the Bears project as a significant economic development but want to ensure the financial needs of the community aren't harmed.

A united lobbying front District 214 hopes to partner with 211, 15 over potential tax breaks

District 214 considers hiring lobbyist over proposed change to taxing authority for Bears project

State senator from Arlington Heights files Bears tax break bill, but she wants TIF reform, too

'We would like to have a seat at the table': Schools plan to hire lobbyist to oppose Bears bill

Closing time: Chicago Bears finalize $197.2 million purchase of Arlington Park

Lisa Small, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 superintendent
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