With a court date expected in mid-December and legal fees for all parties slightly over $1 million, Naperville School District 203’s lawsuit against the city of Warrenville over proceeds from the Cantera Tax Increment Financing district continues.
The suit, first filed in March 2005, contends that Warrenville and other area taxing bodies illegally diverted money from the original Cantera TIF into an adjacent TIF area.
“They maintain that it was an illegal transfer of funds,” David Freeman, Warrenville attorney, said in a telephone interview. “But the TIF statute allows us to make that transfer legally.”
Citing the ongoing legal dispute, District 203 attorney David Zajicek declined any comment on the matter, as did School District 203 administrators.
While the case has been dismissed twice, appeals have kept it alive, in the process making it an expensive one for the taxpayer.
Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the defense revealed the School District’s legal bill to be $272,778 for the period from November 2012 to June 2013. Added to the total of $446,153 spent in the years between 2005 and 2012 — as confirmed by the district in January 2013 — the bill to the District 203 property taxpayer stands at $718,931.
Warrenville City Administrator John Coakley told the Sun that as of Oct. 15, 2013, Warrenville had incurred $165,543 in legal fees.
Moreover, several other taxing bodies, including the Warrenville Park District, Warrenville Library District, Warrenville Fire Protection District and Wheaton-Warrenville School District 200, were named in the original suit.
Although the claims against these other bodies were dismissed and no current billing records were available as the Sun went to press, the total as of January 2013 stood at $220,000, pushing the bill for all taxing bodies in the matter over seven figures.
District 203 School Board members declined to comment on the specifics of the case.
“While it is still in a lawsuit, it’s not pertinent to discuss it at all,” School Board member Donna Wandke said.
“It’s a complicated legal issue,” School Board member Suzyn Price said, before pointedly suggesting that the other side should follow the district’s example. “The proper venue for it is in court and not in manipulating public perception.”
Warrenville officials have been making their case to the public, the main thrust of which is that District 203 has no costs associated from the area contained in TIF District 2 because it contains no residences that would send children to District 203 schools.
Warrenville Mayor David Brummel’s position is that District 203 is on an expensive fishing expedition, maintaining that it should be happy that they are receiving, in his estimate, an additional $3.3 million annually in tax dollars since the original TIF expired in 2009.
Brummel said that he was pleased that there seemed to be some momentum toward resolving the case that has been hanging over all parties for almost a decade.
“At least there’s some movement,” he said.