Schools’ tax attorney to Bears: Dismiss your appeal

The attorney for three Arlington Heights-area school districts called on the Bears to drop their Arlington Park property tax appeal, which could refund the NFL club $7.2 million from the coffers of schools and other local taxing bodies, in an effort to restart settlement discussions.

Ares Dalianis of Chicago-based Franczek P.C. — who has represented Palatine Township Elementary District 15, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 in the yearlong property tax dispute with the Bears — said Arlington Heights Village Manager Randy Recklaus’ proposed settlement to the schools and Bears was “too late” since it came five days after the Cook County Board of Review set the value of the team’s 326-acre property at $124.7 million.

That stuck the Bears with a $8.9 million tax bill. But they’re now contesting the decision before the state’s property tax appeal board, in hopes of having the property’s value reduced to $60 million. That would set the tax bill at $1.7 million.

“I think one solution is the Bears would just dismiss their appeal … and we focus on the future,” Dalianis said during a District 15 school board meeting Wednesday night. “$125 million is not a crazy number for this property given that it was just purchased for $197 million.”

  Ares Dalianis, an attorney for three Arlington Heights-area school districts, said he’s frustrated that the schools and Bears couldn’t come to agreement following property tax negotiations that lasted nearly a year. Joe Lewnard/

At the District 214 meeting Thursday night, Dalianis doubled down.

“I don’t think it’s a productive move on their part if they’re going to go to Springfield or City Hall and seek these indulgences, to have this hanging out there,” said Dalianis, referring to the Bears’ ask for public subsidies for a new Chicago lakefront stadium. “I think they ought to withdraw this thing.”

Bears spokesman Scott Hagel said Thursday the club wouldn’t be withdrawing its appeal, which was filed March 29 following the Feb. 22 board of review decision.

If the appeals board rules in the Bears’ favor, it could mean a refund of $2.7 million from District 15, $1.24 million from District 214, $725,000 from Arlington Heights and $566,000 from District 211, with lesser amounts from other local governments. The process could take at least a year.

During the school board meetings Wednesday and Thursday, Dalianis reviewed the timeline of property tax discussions spanning nearly a year since the first meeting with new Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren and Chairman George McCaskey.

Dalianis also disclosed various offers made during the course of the behind-closed-doors talks.

“We really tried to reach an agreement. We offered them what they said they wanted, which was long-term property tax certainty, and essentially $5 million a year (in property tax payments), and those offers were not accepted,” Dalianis said. “So we’re frustrated.”

The schools resisted agreeing to a property value below $100 million that could’ve locked them into receiving lower property tax payments for up to four decades.

Under the Payments in Lieu of Taxes financing mechanism the Bears proposed in 2022, Dalianis said the assessment of the western one-third of the property — where the stadium was envisioned — would be frozen for 25 to 40 years.

Under tax increment financing, which Dalianis said was envisioned for a commercial, residential and entertainment mixed-use district on the remaining two-thirds, the assessment would be frozen for 23 to 35 years.

The proposed stadium district falls within District 211’s boundaries, the mixed-use area would be within District 214, and the entire site is covered by District 15.

Three school districts’ boundaries fall within the 326-acre Arlington Park property, where the Bears have proposed a $5 billion redevelopment anchored by a new stadium. Courtesy of Chicago Bears

“While it will be a bonanza of revenue for the village in terms of sales tax and the sale of water and electricity, all the taxes, hot dog sales, beer sales — you name it — the school districts will get exclusively the property tax,” Dalianis said.

“To the extent people believe that this will be some sort of property tax or revenue bonanza for the schools, it’s simply not true,” he added.

Besides the taxes, the parties did reach agreement on other issues in a draft memorandum of understanding. That included a majority vote requirement of taxing bodies to approve any TIF; tax payments to cover per pupil operational costs of any new students; a limit on new single-family homes in the development; and some capital costs for a potential new school or additions.

  Ares Dalianis, from right, an attorney representing three Arlington Heights-area school districts, lauded Arlington Heights Village Manager Randy Recklaus for trying to resolve a tax dispute between the schools and Bears, but ultimately said the proposed settlement came “too late.” Joe Lewnard/

The Bears last month announced their focus is now on trying to develop a domed stadium on the parking lot south of Soldier Field. It’s a pivot that came after the team — citing Arlington Park’s higher reassessment — started exploring other sites.

But Dalianis disputes that the shift is the result of the property tax issue.

“This is a multibillion-dollar organization looking to build a multibillion-dollar stadium with accompanying accoutrements — hotels, restaurants, everything — and looking for hundreds of millions if not billions of public dollars in the form of a subsidy,” he said. “So to think that basically $2 million in property taxes is what’s holding it up? I think that’s fantasy.”

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