The words of a suburban school district superintendent regarding a possible Bears stadium and adjacent development highlight one of the current fronts in battles over development:
Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Superintendent Laurie Heinz said that if the special taxing mechanism is implemented — where property taxes above a certain level would be diverted away from schools, as well as other taxing bodies, and into the Bears’ proposed mixed-use project — the district would need financial assistance to add classroom space to schools in nearby Rolling Meadows, or potentially even build a new school within the 326-acre site…
The Bears’ preliminary site plan suggests a significant residential component, from higher-density, multifamily properties of four to eight stories closer to the Metra train station, to lower-density townhouses and multifamily units of two to four stories further south and east through the site.
Heinz said the housing could generate hundreds or even thousands of students.
“We want a seat at the table,” Heinz said at a recent community meeting. “We’re going to fight against it all being TIF’ed because we will need money.
The superintendent is saying that the school district will need money to serve the influx of students that would come through new residential units. Other school districts, residents, or leaders have gone further when considering other suburban projects: they do not necessarily want school students to live in new residential units. Fewer school-age children would save money for school districts and communities in the long run due to not having to provide educational services.
In some ways, this is an odd stance for suburban leaders and residents to take. Much of the suburban sprawl in the United States involved providing spaces and success for children. Property values and a sense of community status are often tied to the performance of local school districts.
But, this focus on children comes with costs. Particularly for mature suburbs, they can struggle to fund schools or residents and leaders push back against the costs of schooling compared to other preferred priorities (such as taxes not going up).
For this particular project, who will adjust: the city not provide a TIF? The developer change the residential units in ways that appeal to certain kinds of residents and not others? The school district finding ways to fit this into particular confines? Stay tuned.