'Factual information': School districts launch website of their own about Bears stadium
The three school districts locked in a property tax battle with the Chicago Bears launched a website Wednesday about that and other issues related to the proposed stadium at Arlington Park.
The website, suburbanstadium.org, was created and is maintained by Palatine Township Elementary District 15, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 -- the school systems whose boundaries lie within the 326-acre former racetrack property now owned by the NFL franchise.
"The purpose of this site is to provide factual information," officials wrote on the welcome page. "While the school districts involved do have a point of view concerning property tax assessment and revenue and what represents fairness on these matters, this site is not designed to offer or sway opinions. The fact is that all three districts are excited by and welcome the prospect of Arlington Heights becoming the Bears' new home -- under terms fair to all."
"With this site, we hope to serve as a one-stop shop for people seeking to better understand stadium-related issues and possibilities."
The two sides remain far apart on how much property tax the Bears should pay. The Bears' last offer was $4.3 million, while the school districts suggested $7.9 million. Though it's being challenged, Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi's reassessment of the property would increase the annual bill from $2.8 million to $16.2 million.
The website includes a host of information related to finance, including a primer on property taxes in Cook County, how municipalities and school districts are funded, tax increment financing in which local governments' property taxes above a certain point are funneled into development, and examples of how other stadiums were paid for.
Other tabs include a breakdown of legislative proposals that would give the Bears a property tax break, a timeline of key events since Churchill Downs Inc. put the property up for sale in February 2021, and links to news coverage, including several Daily Herald stories.
The site launch comes on the eve of new District 214 Superintendent Scott Rowe's public welcome reception before the school board meeting Thursday evening. At the last meeting in July, Rowe made his first public comments about the stalled negotiations, calling for a fair deal for students, schools and taxpayers.
In June, Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren said the NFL club isn't looking to taxpayers for any "handouts" but wants "certainty and fairness" on property tax assessments and payments.