Batavia school board approves TIF agreement for new Aurora casino

The Batavia Unit District 101 school board Tuesday approved an intergovernmental agreement to create a tax increment financing district for a new Aurora casino.

Documents show the board had been shown plans for a new casino and hotel on Farnsworth Avenue near Bilter Road on land that is not being used.

Hollywood Casino Aurora's parent company, Penn Entertainment, Inc., intends to develop the new land-based casino and hotel adjacent to the Chicago Premium Outlets mall, near Exit 119 off I-88. It would replace the current Hollywood Casino Aurora riverboat property, according to the casino website.

The development has an estimated budget of $360 million and is expected to include a modern casino and hotel with about 900 slots and 50 live table games (including a baccarat room and a poker room), a Barstool Sportsbook and about 200 hotel rooms.

The property will feature a full-service spa, bars and restaurants, about 10,000 square feet of meeting areas and an event center. Construction of the new property is expected to begin later this year, after gaining city regulatory approval.

Aurora is seeking an intergovernmental agreement to restructure the existing tax increment financing (TIF) district around the casino development, according to documents.

"This casino TIF will pull a series of parcels out of TIF 7 as it exists and turn it into this new Farnsworth, Bilter TIF," Batavia Chief Financial Officer Anton Inglese said.

Documents said the agreement required that the board "refrain from actions or statements that could jeopardize the new TIF initiative."

"We're approving an intergovernmental agreement. We're not approving an NDA (nondisclosure agreement)," Inglese said. "You wouldn't do an NDA in a public school district. We're doing an IGA."

Inglese said the city of Aurora owns the TIF parcel included in the new TIF and it is not generating revenue for the school district.

District 101 also will not receive property tax revenue from the property for a minimum of 23 years - the TIF's life span - with the potential for a longer time frame if the TIF is extended, documents said.

The school district instead will receive 10% of the new TIF district's incremental property tax as surplus. Documents estimated the arrangement could net the district $300,000 a year.

"We have an existing IGA on Aurora TIF's 7 and 8 that work very much the same way," Inglese said. "(The TIFs) disperse a surplus of 10% of whatever the increment is to the taxing bodies. And, for the same kind of agreements that they won't contest or not support the TIF itself. What we have here is very much a replica of an IGA we already have in place."

Several community members at Tuesday's meeting spoke against the plan during public comment, saying the decision could cost the district $74 million.

Inglese said the district would not have an opportunity to negotiate the 10% surplus.

District 101 Superintendent Tom Kim said the city of Aurora is not obligated to offer the school board an agreement within the IGA.

"I have been in other districts where TIF discussions have occurred," Kim said. "(Cities) plow right through what they want to do."

The district's $140 million facilities referendum was voted down for the second time in April.

"We're budgeting $300,000 to upgrade fire alarms at Louise White Elementary School," school board Vice President Aaron Kilburg said.

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