‘Stood up for our taxpayers’: District 214 superintendent defends approach in property tax battle with Bears

Northwest Suburban High School District 214 Superintendent Scott Rowe denied his and two other Arlington Heights-area school districts are being “greedy” in their ongoing property tax battle with the Chicago Bears.

And though he said the two sides were “very, very close” to an agreement on a property valuation and tax payments for the Arlington Park site, the schools aren’t willing to go as far as the NFL franchise’s tax attorneys want them to go. That’s because of the long-term implications of a short-term deal.

“The one that really just doesn’t sit well with us is that the school districts are greedy and we’re after money,” Rowe said during a school board meeting Thursday night. “We are not going to see a windfall of money from this project for 25 to 40 years.”

Under proposed property tax break legislation backed by the Bears, the assessment at the team’s 326-acre property would be frozen for up to four decades, and they would be allowed instead to make negotiated payments to local taxing bodies including District 214, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Palatine Township Elementary District 15.

“Every taxpayer in the community will cover the difference for 25 to 40 years. And I don’t say that to scare people,” Rowe said. “That’s why we have not been so willing to move all the way to where the media has suggested that we go.”

  Northwest Suburban High School District 214 Superintendent Scott Rowe this week defended the approach of Arlington Heights-area school districts in their ongoing property tax battle with the Chicago Bears. John Starks/, April 2023

The Bears’ appraisal put the value of the shuttered racetrack site at $60 million, while the school districts’ appraisal suggested the land’s value is $160 million.

The lower the property value, the lower the amount of taxes collected by the schools and other taxing bodies.

During negotiations, Rowe said the Bears asked to make a $5 million annual tax payment.

He described meetings with team President and CEO Kevin Warren and Chief Financial Officer Karen Murphy as “productive and friendly.”

“We see our potential future together and how the relationship can work, but unfortunately we weren’t able to achieve the settlement that we thought we could,” Rowe said.

That’s when attorneys for both sides agreed to present their cases to the Cook County Board of Review Jan. 30. If a settlement can’t be reached, the three-member elected panel could make a decision as soon as the week of Feb. 19.

Rowe added, the schools’ primary focus during negotiations has been to ensure they are “made whole” and get full funding for any new students who might live within the Bears’ proposed $5 billion mixed-use redevelopment area.

There appeared to be agreement on that aspect, during talks over a memorandum of understanding proposed by Arlington Heights village officials. But the memorandum couldn’t be finalized because there was no deal on the short-term property tax issue, Rowe said.

Despite Warren’s renewed focus on exploring potential stadium sites in Chicago, Rowe said he and the other school district officials “want (the Bears) in Arlington Heights.”

“We’ve done our part to be good partners with the village to make this happen, but also stood up for our taxpayers,” Rowe said.

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