Arlington Heights kills effort to stop ‘Bears tax’
The Arlington Heights Board voted unanimously to reject a citizen proposal to stop them from subsidizing the $5 billion Bears stadium development with taxpayer funds. Petition sponsors said they will pursue a ballot question.
The Arlington Heights Village Board rejected a proposed referendum 9-0 on Oct. 3 to block the creation of local subsidies for the Chicago Bears stadium development.
The “Anti-Corporate Welfare Ordinance” petition circulated by Americans for Prosperity-Illinois sought to prohibit the disbursement of taxpayer funds to incentivize building the $5 billion stadium and supporting infrastructure.
The ordinance was signed by 565 Arlington Heights residents. Mayor Thomas Hayes said it would cause a “severe negative economic impact” for the community. But Americans for Prosperity-Illinois Deputy Director Brian Costin told board members the proposal will return.
“Our ordinance is about equality before the law,” Costin said. “You shouldn’t be forced … to pay for the profits of others. … The citizens of Arlington Heights deserve to have the final say on the issue of corporate welfare.”
The Bears said the team would pay to build the stadium on the former site of the Arlington International horse race track. The team is seeking help from local taxpayers to construct roads and utilities that would support the new mixed-use development.
Experts suspect the Bears will seek subsidies through tax increment financing, diverting future property tax dollars to repay bonds used for stadium infrastructure. Property tax revenue would be frozen for existing taxing bodies, such as schools, for 23 years as the development captured the revenue from the property’s value increasing.
Costin will need to gather signatures from nearly 7,000 registered voters in Arlington Heights to get the referendum on a future ballot.
Chicagoans are still on the hook for $415 million for past renovations made in 2002 to Solider Field. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has pitched another round of renovations that would cost each city taxpayer anywhere from $833 to $2,036 as a way to keep the football team from moving out of Chicago.