Teachers, parents fight Sears' tax breaks

October 13, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The Economic Development Agreement is set to expire in two years. Sears says it is an essential part of the incentives package to keep them in the state of Illinois. About 2,000 people associated with the School District 300 gathered to voice their opposition.

They chanted, carried signs and wore matching t-shirts. The rally was designed to send a message to politicians who were not attendance. The group wants to end the EDA that has provided millions of dollars in tax breaks for Sears on their property in Hoffman Estates. The agreement, they believe, is depriving schools in District 300 of much-need revenue.

"It has permeated our community, that we have everything to lose if this EDA is extended," said Supt. Michael Bregy, District 300.

"My job will be on the line," said Everlean Dodson.

Sears corporate leaders says they are considering relocating their headquarters and have already had talks with other states who are offering incentives. Community leaders say they want Sears to stay but not at the expense of education.

"We in the state of Illinois have for too long allowed corporations like Sears to basically shake us down," said State Sen. Michael Noland, (D) Elgin.

Sears recently commissioned a study that concluded the company contributes 15,000 jobs to the area and more than $3 billion in economic development. In a statement, Chris Brathwaite, Sears VP of Media Relations and Corporate Communications, said, "Sears Holdings paid over $200 million taxes last year in the state of Illinois...to make it sound like this company is simply standing here with its hand out is simply not true. District 300 has not lost a dime due to the EDA."

Gov. Pat Quinn said he's confident lawmakers will find a compromise.

"I think they'll work something out that's good for education and good for keeping jobs, so part of the job is to balance things off, make sure we have good schools, good jobs," Quinn said.

Supt. Bregy agrees with Quinn and thinks keeping Sears in Hoffman Estates is very important. Many parents of children in District 300 work for Sears. However, he says the state has to find some incentives that not so costly to the school.

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