Arlington Park's property tax bill reduced by more than half

After an agreement between Churchill Downs Inc., the Cook County Board of Review and several suburban school districts, the property tax bill for Arlington Park this year was reduced to $7.8 million.

That's less than half the initial $16.1 million tax bill estimated when the property was reassessed by Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi's office last year.

The new bill is based on a value of $95 million.

Kaegi's office valued the property at just below the $197.2 million price tag the Chicago Bears paid for the property this year. The professional football franchise is planning to build a new stadium on the site as part of a $5 billion redevelopment, and relocate the team from downtown Chicago.

The reduction is only good for the tax bill due this year and owed by Churchill Downs, said Samantha Steele, the District 2 Board of Review commissioner.

"We analyzed the assessments and the property independent of other appraisals, and we feel this is a fair settlement," Steele said. "The market value was perhaps overinflated because of the sale."

Churchill Downs officials had sought to have the property valued at $37.5 million, which would have dropped the tax bill to about $3 million.

Churchill Downs officials did not return emails seeking comment about the tax bill settlement.

When the Bears receive a tax bill for the property next year, it once again will be valued at $197 million, county officials said. That's unless a deal can be struck beforehand.

Bears officials have said they plan to seek a property tax reduction and have begun the process of tearing down the racetrack's six-story grandstand and surrounding buildings, a move the team believes will lower the property's value.

Officials from three school districts that receive property taxes from the 326-acre site - Palatine Township Elementary School District 15, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 - have suggested maintaining the value at $95 million until it's reassessed in 2025.

"It is important to know that the 2023 and 2024 assessments have yet to be set by the county assessor, and no agreement has been reached between the school districts and the Chicago Bears with respect to those two years," school district officials said in a joint statement Wednesday.

Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren argued the district's proposed value would still be too high since the property would be sitting idle "for at least two years."

The Bears have countered with a proposed property value of $52.5 million, which would generate an estimated $4.3 million in property taxes annually.

There is also proposed legislation in Springfield that would freeze the assessed value of the property and allow the team to negotiate property tax payments to the school districts and other local taxing bodies.

Meetings between Bears leadership and the school districts' administrators are expected to take place this summer.

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