What does Sears deal do for District 300?

 
 
Updated 12/18/2011 7:13 AM

The additional funding Community Unit District 300 will collect when a new tax deal between the state and Sears Holdings Inc. takes effect may not be the light at the end of the financial tunnel the district was hoping for. But district leaders know the future is brighter.

Beginning in 2014, District 300 will receive about $6.2 million per year in property tax revenues from the Sears Economic Development Area. The new deal, which the Illinois Senate approved earlier this month and Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Friday, more than doubles the district's current share of property taxes from the land within the districts borders on which the Sears campus sits.

 

But Allison Strupeck, communications supervisor for District 300, said the real benefits will be seen once the Economic Development Area is wrapped up.

"The additional funding from the EDA represents less than 2 percent of the district's operating budget, so the impact of this additional funding will not be as impactful as if the EDA had expired in 2013 per the original state statute," Strupeck said in an email to the Daily Herald.

Still, Strupeck said, once the district outlines its budget for the 2014-2015 school year, changes will be made.

"At that time, the board and administration will collect input from parents, staff and community members as to how taxpayers would like the funding to be used," Strupeck said. "No such plan can be determined this far in advance. But it would be fair to say that beginning in 2014-2015, the board will try to restore some of $14 million in cuts that were made these past couple of years, especially at the classroom level."

The sunset of the original Sears EDA would have eased at least some of the district's financial worries.

The original Economic Development Area for Sears and Hoffman Estates was slated to expire in 2013. At that time, the district would have collected about $17 million per year from the property.

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But the deal approved by lawmakers this month extends the company's property tax breaks for another 25 years, or until the company can recover $125 million. It also affords Sears income tax breaks worth $15 million a year for 10 years.

"While this additional $3.3 million a year will benefit the school system in the short-term to some degree, the bigger impact will be felt in the long-term, meaning roughly 10 years from now when Sears is repaid for its past investments and D300 begins receiving its full taxes from the EDA," Strupeck said. "When Sears is repaid, our school system will begin receiving ... $17 million a year."

Kathleen Burley, an Algonquin parent with three children in the district, saw firsthand the effect of budget cuts on the classroom. Burley said her fifth-grader's class consisted of 38 students and one teacher in a classroom built for 25 students.

"The students would miss recess because they had to finish projects and it was crazy," Burley said. "First and foremost they will have to do something about class sizes because they are very high. I know that is the first thing on their minds. Then after that, bring back some of the electives that were eliminated at the high school level."

Burley said for now, the district will make do with the cards it has been dealt.

"I am not thrilled with the deal, but it is the best I think we could have done," Burley said. "There are a lot of loopholes in the legislation that we need to watch."

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