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Arlington Heights-area school districts reach deal with Churchill Downs over racetrack property taxes — but deal with Bears still sought

Local school districts and the former owner of Arlington International Racetrack have agreed on how much property tax to pay this year, but negotiations with the new owners — the Chicago Bears — for future tax years and payments are still pending.

The racetrack’s former owner Churchill Downs Inc. will pay $7.9 million in property taxes this year, up from $2.7 million it paid before the track closed in 2021.

Arlington Heights-based Township High School District 214, Palatine-based Township High School District 211, and Palatine Community Consolidated School District 15 – an elementary school district – all receive property tax revenue from the racetrack site.

District officials confirmed that the schools and Churchill Downs Inc. entered into the agreement on May 31, although the Cook County Board of Review has yet to approve it.

But because the settlement is only good for one year, the Bears — new owners of the 326-acre property starting in February — will have to renegotiate the value of the land if they want to reduce their 2023 property tax bill. 2023 taxes will be assessed by the end of this year and then payable in 2024.

“Next year it will revert to the original estimated value,” Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Samantha Steele said.

The Bears will likely try to avoid a bill that could reach $16 million, based on the recent reassessment of the land value by Cook County assessor Fritz Kaegi.

The appraiser establishes the value of properties in Cook County. In the case of Arlington International Racetrack, the valuation went from $33 million to $197 million, roughly what the team paid for the property. The Bears had been pushing for the property to be valued at $37 million, Pioneer Press previously reported.

Months before the land sale closed, the football team proposed a multi-billion dollar redevelopment project for the former horse racing site, including a domed stadium, luxury residences and business and entertainment districts.

School district leaders, wary of the redevelopment project’s potential impact on student enrollment, coupled with possible reductions in district revenue due to tax breaks, pushed for the property to be appraised at $95 million.

“It is important to know that the assessments for 2023 and 2024 have not yet been set by the county assessor, and that no agreement has been reached between the school districts and the Chicago Bears regarding these two years. “, said the leaders of each of the three. districts said in a joint statement.

Therefore, negotiations continue between the school districts and the Bears.

Kaegi’s office valued the old racetrack at around $197 million, roughly equal to what the football team paid earlier this year.

If that assessment holds, the team would have to pay $16 million in property taxes next year. That’s why the Bears negotiated with school districts about future payments, a spokesperson said.

Even with the appraiser’s assessment, if the Bears and the school districts reach an agreement, as the school districts did with Churchill Downs, the value of the land could be reduced and, therefore, the tax bill. This year should mark the final payment of taxes from Churchill Downs on the property.

The Bears will have the ability to appeal the assessor’s valuation of the land for the 2023 tax year in an effort to lower the tax bill, which Steele said she expects they do, as well as many others in Cook County.

“Next year, the Bears will be in the position of having to verify or justify their intention to appeal,” Steele said. “I think next year will be the interesting year.”

Robert McCoppin of the Tribune contributed.


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