'Substantial gulf': Schools refuse to counter Bears' property tax offer

After new Chicago Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren called the property tax and assessment settlement proposed by three school districts a "nonstarter," the superintendents fired back with a letter of their own Friday that doubles down on their offer.

The school districts that encompass the Bears' recently purchased Arlington Park property - Palatine Township Elementary District 15, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 - suggested the land is worth $95 million, for which the Bears would be responsible for paying $7.9 million in annual property taxes for the next two years.

The Bears have countered with a land value of $52.5 million and annual tax payments of $4.3 million, as part of a behind-closed doors negotiations process that started in January.

But given a "substantial gulf" between the two sides, the school district superintendents told Warren Friday they don't see the need to make a counteroffer.

"It is our firm belief that this offer provides the clarity and fairness (Chicago Bears Football Club) Development needs, while maintaining the integrity of the property tax system on which school districts depend and protecting the other taxpayers within our communities who do not receive such large reductions in their assessments," according to the letter from District 214 co-interim Superintendents Ken Arndt and Laz Lopez, District 15 Superintendent Laurie Heinz and District 211 Superintendent Lisa Small.

The two-page missive came hours after a Daily Herald report on Warren's May 4 communication to the superintendents, in which he suggested the schools' proposal was not "viable."

"This is an excessive sum for property that will sit idle and will have no commercial use for at least the next two years," Warren wrote. "This is simply not financially feasible and has negative consequences for all parties, including Arlington Heights and the surrounding communities."

The school districts said they now intend to proceed with resolution of the 2022 assessment year on its own, which will help inform both the schools and the Bears on an "appropriate" assessment for tax years 2023 and 2024, when the Bears will have full responsibility for the taxes. The schools said negotiations were already underway between their attorneys and lawyers for former property owner Churchill Downs Inc. when the Bears entered the process and asked to expand the number of tax years under consideration to 2023 and 2024.

Churchill Downs' appeal for the 2022 assessment year is set to be heard by the Cook County Board of Review June 2.

Following an in-person meeting at Kimball Hill Elementary School in Rolling Meadows on April 18, Warren said the school administrators didn't return his subsequent phone calls, and he asked them to come "back to the table."

On Friday, the school leaders said they are "willing to attempt to schedule" another in-person meeting. But in the meantime, they advised both sides to continue to work through their respective lawyers.

'Nonstarter': Bears, suburban school districts millions apart on property tax deal for Arlington

Laurie Heinz
Lisa Small
Chicago Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren Associated Press
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