Warrenville asks D203 to drop Cantera lawsuit
By Hank Beckman For The Sun January 22, 2013 9:42PM
Updated: February 24, 2013 6:41AM
Warrenville Mayor Dave Brummel Tuesday night led a group of representatives asking the Naperville District 203 School Board to drop a lawsuit against Warrenville governmental bodies.
Brummel said the total legal fees for all parties concerned stood at $803,000 and counting on the matter.
Included in that figure are District 203’s legal expenses, which stand at $446,153.
“I invite you to examine the course that this legal action has taken over the last eight years and carefully consider if it makes sense to continue,” he told the board Tuesday.
District 203 filed the suit in 2005, contending that the taxing bodies, including the city of Warrenville, Wheaton-Warrenville District 200, the Warrenville Fire Protection District, Warrenville Library District and the Warrenville Park District, benefitted from funds improperly directed to them from the Cantera Tax Increment Financing District.
In a statement, city of Warrenville officials said that “despite there not even being a reference to Warrenville on the school district’s website, the Naperville School District’s boundaries include a portion of the Cantera Development in Warrenville. That area is primarily commercial with zero residential properties, so the Naperville School District experiences no expenses from the Warrenville properties, because no Warrenville children attend any of their schools.
“However, that school district continues to benefit financially from Warrenville’s very successful Cantera TIF Development through increased property values and tax revenue. Naperville School District 203 has reaped a financial windfall in excess of $9 million in new property tax revenue since 2009, and will continue to receive more than $3 million annually in the future,” the statement said.
To date, the city of Warrenville alone has incurred $133,203 in legal fees.
The suit has been dismissed twice, but District 203 appealed both times, the most recent appeal starting another round of discovery proceedings in 2010.
The Cantera TIF was formed in 1986 and lasted for 23 years, during which time a certain amount of property taxes were used to fund infrastructure improvements in the area.
When the TIF expired in 2009, the section of the area within District 203’s boundaries saw an increase in property values that yielded the district an additional $3.3 million yearly.
District 203 Communication Director Susan Rice responded to an email inquiry about the matter by citing legal reasons to withhold comment. However, she did confirm the $446,153 in legal fees racked up by the district so far in the matter.
“It is not appropriate to speak about pending litigation,” read her email.
Pressed after the meeting, Board President Mike Jaensch also declined comment, saying only that there was a court date coming up.
“That’s where these things are usually discussed,” he said.
If the district is playing it close to the vest, Warrenville officials are only too happy to speak their minds.
Brummel said there were several District 203 Board members, including Jaensch, who came on to the board after the original suit was filed, stressing that the purpose of presenting the District 203 Board with the resolution was to raise awareness.
“Maybe they aren’t aware of the aggregate expenses,” Brummel said, noting that originally the suit might have been filed with surplus funds in mind.
When it was pointed out that the district had in the past argued that that the matter could have been resolved sooner if Warrenville had been more timely providing discovery documents, both Brummel and Warrenville City Administrator John Coakley denied that Warrenville was dragging out the process.
“They’ve gotten everything they have asked for,” Coakley said of the 30,000 pages of documents provided by Warrenville since 2010.
Coakley said that Warrenville operated with a “very small staff” and stressed that they would prefer it to be tending to city business.
Asked if they had much hope for a settlement, Coakley wouldn’t venture a prediction.
“We’re on the defensive side,” he said. “We didn’t file the lawsuit.”
As for the cost, Brummel would only say, “the meter keeps ticking for all the taxing districts.”