Dist. 300. Hoffman Estates still at odds over Sears
For the third consecutive Hoffman Estates village board meeting, Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300 representatives were present to voice their opposition to the possible extension of an economic development area in the village designed to keep Sears Holding Corp. in Illinois.
The board voted Monday to delay recognition of the audience, which is typically done toward the beginning of the meeting, until after the last item on the agenda.
Fewer than 25 District 300 students, staff and parents came to the meeting with less enthusiasm than what was seen at previous meetings. Only four people addressed the board with their concerns on the EDA, and most of them echoed statements made at earlier meetings.
"Please just stop and think about the thousands of families and students that your decision is going to affect," said Sara Tompkins, a senior at Dundee-Crown High School.
"The thing that they don't understand is that District 300 doesn't want (Sears) to leave our state," she added after the meeting. "We don't want that. We want to work with Sears."
Tompkins said the smaller than usual turnout of District 300 representatives was due to late notification of the meeting and because students have been busy with finals.
"There's not that many people here, but it's a good number for how soon we just found out about the meeting," she said.
The Economic Development Area was established by the state in 1989 to help Sears move from Chicago to the Prairie Stone campus in Hoffman Estates. It allows Sears to keep property tax dollars earmarked for local taxing bodies -- including District 300 -- and spend them on the Prairie Stone development.
With the deal set to expire in 2012, Sears is considering offers from other states, including Texas and Ohio, to relocate its headquarters. Hoping to prevent that, village officials and state lawmakers are working to extend the incentive for 15 years.
District 300 officials say that if current incentives for Sears are extended, its schools will lose about $14 million a year.
Bob Smith, a trustee from Algonquin, said he was present to represent himself but told the board that his village board recently passed a resolution asking that more time be taken to make decisions about extending the EDA.
"This needs to slow down. District 300 needs to be involved in the process," he said, adding that he was once a resident of Hoffman Estates and appreciated having the opportunity to attend good schools. "It's really hard for these kids to deal with what they're gonna have to go through, not just for the children today but also for the children in the next, if this carries on, 15 years."
But Arthur Janura, corporation counsel for Hoffman Estates, reiterated how important the board feels it is to support the EDA and not risk losing the more than 6,000 jobs that Sears provides.
"The EDA is essential to keeping Sears in Illinois, and I would suggest to the people that have not already done so that they would visit the website at Searsholdings.com," he said.
"Last week there was a conference call. It included state legislators, District 300 officials, village officials and officials from Sears and on no uncertain terms it was disclosed that the decision has to be made before the end of the year otherwise Sears is going to seriously consider other offers that are on the table," he added. "The village has had discussions and made offers of compromise with District 300. The only response from District 300 is to kill the EDA."