Could Oak Park, township merge?

Village to establish task force on efficiencies, commission on aging

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Board of Trustees is moving forward with its goal-setting initiatives earlier this month and plans to establish two new advisory bodies – a task force on efficiency and a commission on aging.

Trustees made it clear that the task force on efficiency is not solely focused on the topic of consolidating the village and township governmental bodies, but they all noted that it is a topic they intend the taskforce to explore. 

The topic of consolidation, a subject that has been discussed for years, has resurfaced in recent months as Oak Parkers have become increasingly vocal about the rising tax burden in the village.

Consolidation was discussed at a recent meeting of the ad hoc, resident-led Oak Park Property Tax Watch group, which met earlier this month at the Oak Park Public Library.

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said in a recent interview that Illinois has over 7,000 units of government, more than any other state in the union. 

He said he hopes the task force, which has yet to be formed, "lets us know if consolidation makes sense."

"If the community sees a benefit [to consolidation], then it's up to the village to find that out," Abu-Taleb said.

Many who support the idea of consolidation point to the 2014 consolidation of the city of Evanston and its township. The city released a white paper in August 2016, noting that the consolidation saved the municipality $780,000 in the first year.

Trustee Bob Tucker referred to the savings in Evanston in a recent telephone interview, noting that the initial savings to that village were greater than expected.

He said the task force will look at anything that creates efficiencies to the village's bottom line.

"It think we're all interested in having that conversation," he said. 

Trustee Jim Taglia, who served on the Oak Park Township Board of Trustees for six years, said the goal is to find efficiencies, but if it leads to an exploration of consolidation "then so be it."

"It's important that as elected officials that we recognize and never forget that our obligation is to the taxpayers, not the taxing bodies," he said.

The commission on aging will pursue a different goal of better understanding and connecting to Oak Park's aging population. The commission was spurred by a community meeting held by Abu-Taleb earlier this year to discuss aging in the village.

Trustee Simone Boutet said in a telephone interview that people are living longer and more productive lives "and we, as a village, need to make sure we're making decisions that take that reality into consideration."

She said that includes decisions concerning zoning, infrastructure and service delivery.

Trustee Deno Andrews said that many aging Oak Park residents are now struggling to stay in their homes because of the rising tax burden. He hopes the commission investigates a "pathway for people to live their whole lives here."

"I think we have a real need for that, and it should be a part of the planning process when we are building our village," Andrews said. 

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Richard Fischer from OP  

Posted: February 3rd, 2018 12:49 AM

I remember the Park District having to separate from the village govt a while back and have always wondered how much that move cost us. I don't understand why all branches can't be run like private businesses. You have a corporation with its various divisions. Seems like there could be savings by having just one major administration of all divisions rather than individual ones for each separate entity.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: February 2nd, 2018 5:39 PM

Jeff makes an excellent point that consolidation does not mean elimination. It can save tax dollars. And Bill Dwyer - this is not personal. Lighten up. Its comments on a small town paper.

Mila Tellez  

Posted: February 2nd, 2018 5:10 PM

We have over 200 seniors in the 19 century charitable assn. and i would suggest a poll of what services they received in the last year. I know many use the accessor for their tax reduction filings. Saving seniors taxes helps them stay in their homes.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: February 2nd, 2018 4:49 PM

No doubt the Township provides many great services and under a merger they could continue to do so as employees of the Village of Oak Park. There will be savings by having one less board (who mostly run unopposed), one less outside audit, one less attorney contract, etc. I was the last treasurer of the former 100 year old Township Trustee of Schools office and helped distribute funds to seven school districts for whom we acted as banker. It is possible to do!

Bruce Kline  

Posted: February 2nd, 2018 2:22 PM

Bill: First, many of us are very much aware of and quite concerned about the large proportion of property tax monies delegated to our schools and how they are used. That would be obvious to you if you read any of the FB postings on OPPTW, which has over 800 members. Tom and I and many others did not fall off the proverbial turnip truck, we are very much aware of these numbers. And yes Bill we are aware of the approx. 15% that the village mandates. We still live here after all and therefore are on the hook for these taxes. So you can bet the house that we indeed know (and care) how our monies are proportioned and spent. You bailed, for one reason or another, and that is your business. We indeed still have a lot of "skin in the game."That being said, I still think looking at "duplicative" government is worthwhile. I still think consolidation - as a model - is worthwhile as well. In my view we do have too much government in Illinois. Illinois leads the Union in governmental entities. Does that make me "antigovernment" or just someone concerned with the fair and efficient use of our hard earned tax monies? And I beg to differ. One person is rarely responsible for corruption in any organization. There are usually the many enablers who either do not want to know - or choose to look away. The outrageous prototype for this, is of course the Larry Nassar case, where only one person (that we know of) committed crimes but person after person after person, chose to look away. This behavior is well known in governmental and large private entities as well. I agree with Tom on his point about "systemic fraud" - a term used by the WJ.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 2nd, 2018 1:04 PM

I lived in Oak Park for nearly 45 years before moving to Forest Park. All you people so upset with the supposed waste of money at the Township should be just beside yourself at the fact that the school system eats up almost 70 percent of your RE tax bill, and the village roughly another 15 percent. The Township's percentage is just a few percent, and that do a good job for the money.

Craig Williams  

Posted: February 2nd, 2018 11:25 AM

Interesting. What's that next to Bill Dwyer's name. I live in Forest Park so just like Dan Haley I talk up Oak Park but couldn't afford to live there. Oh and hey look, Gavin Morgan has to tell you all about the township and will fight to keep them separate because he knows as Township Manager with a salary of 116,924 his job would be one of those cut.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 2nd, 2018 9:13 AM

Whatever, MacMillan. You're obviously someone who doesn't let your lack of knowledge about something stop you from opining on it. Hopefully the majority of people in Oak Park take a more thoughtful, deliberative approach to this issue. Perhaps the WJ publish an article on the Township and some of the actual fish and blood people it helps.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: February 2nd, 2018 8:31 AM

One last thing Bill, the "Systematic fraud" quote was from the WJ, not from me.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: February 2nd, 2018 8:29 AM

So a bully rampages around the Township offices forcing everyone to do his bidding? How long was it like that? Years? Sounds like things were completely out of control. Another good reason to consider merging that government org with the Village to get some sanity and professionalism back into things. Also, good thing we allow Township staff who break the law to retire, if they are a manager. Then they can keep the pension they earned while they were falsifying records as their "job". The more you share Bill, the worse it sounds.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 2nd, 2018 7:37 AM

"Systematic fraud." Wow, you're a real piece of work, MacMillan. You condemn an entire organization for the bad acts of one person and poor supervision by another. The transportation supervisor who was directly responsible for the falsified records was fired and his boss was allowed to retire. . Here's a fact not reported on - the terminated transportation supervisor is around 6-foot three and over 300 pounds- he verbally bullied people and they were afraid of him. It was a bad situation that was corrected when it was disclosed. But I guess for knee jerk anti-government types like you, that's not enough.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: February 1st, 2018 11:02 PM

One mistake is human. Thousands of mistakes is systematic fraud. Its what everyone in an office knows is being done but they look the other way. Tim's reporting outlined over ten thousand falsified records over a long period of time. That was just 100 days ago. So we are paying Township staff who sat at their desk falsifying records for how many hours to falsify "hundreds per week". But Mr. Morgan says they "proudly provide" us services? OK, thanks but no thanks.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 1st, 2018 10:17 PM

Allright, MacMillan- I broke that story for the newspaper I freelance for before the WJ reported it. So... at the risk of sounding like I'm blowing my own horn, suffice to say I know the facts of that case. Suffice also to say that one mistake by any person or organization doesn't show what they're about.

Tom MacMillan  

Posted: February 1st, 2018 9:54 PM

It is interesting to get a list of rides given and so on from the Township as evidence of their work load. The problem is that three months ago this very paper reported that the Township falsified records specifically to make them look better than they really were. Hard to trust them. Now is a very good time to consider moving whatever it is that they do into the Village. http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/10-31-2017/OP-Township-falsified-Pace-ridership-by-thousands/

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 1st, 2018 5:46 PM

Wow. Tom McMillan went to the OP Township website and was unimpressed. Guess we have to shut it down then, huh?. . The fact is that the OP Township staff provide essential services across a range of ages and needs, from teens to the elderly. They also provide.contracted services to the much smaller River Forest Township for youth and senior services.

Jenna Brown Russell  

Posted: February 1st, 2018 4:13 PM

I do not think anyone is looking to reduce services provided (though you may want to check transportation numbers-reporting accuracy is not a strong suit there). It is worth exploring whether those services can be delivered without redundant facility, HR, treasury, IT and other overhead expenses. I'd prefer those taxes go to Township clients than to rent.

Gavin Morgan from Oak Park Township  

Posted: February 1st, 2018 3:17 PM

The 50+ staff members of Oak Park Township proudly provide social services to the residents of Oak Park Township. For example, in FY2017 (4/1/16 to 3/31/17), our Senior Services department provided the following: Information & Assistance: 8,372 calls Options Counseling: 21 sessions Transportation: 21,716 rides to doctor appointments, dialysis, shopping, sheltered workshops and adult day care services. Meals: 58,649 Home Delivered, Congregate, and Dine-Out Meals Shelf Stable meals: 2,300 meals-Provided for emergency consumption Case Management: 7,761 hours of direct services Chore: 2,550 hours of direct home maker services Caregiver Support Services: 1,127 units Community Education: 30 sessions Home Energy Assistance: 200 units Adult Protective Services: 47 cases Assistance in Accessing Public Programs: 945 hours IVMMP (Money Management Program) Hours: 2,188 hours Farmers Market Coupons: 746 booklets benefiting seniors and farmers. Mental Health Direct Services: 705 hours Nursing Home Pre-screens: 1,653 screens conducted at the local Oak Park Hospitals. Community Based Assessments: 815 individuals assessed Managed Care Case Hours: 458 hours Affordable Wills Program: 44 Wills Advance Directives: 26 consultations Senior Health Insurance Counseling (SHIP): 403 consultations For more information about services that were provided by other departments at the Township, please visit, http://oakparktownship.org/strategic-plan-and-annual-report . Reports for the current fiscal year will be available in April.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: February 1st, 2018 9:00 AM

Go on the Townships' web site and see what they say they "do". It is not much of a list. Its more like announcements about what some other entity is doing. They certainly don't need a building of their own. It is hard to imagine their staff goes home exhausted from a busy work day of one phone call from a senior. Compared to any other government entity it looks outdated and easily eliminated. The assessor is an exception, but that would be one office in some other municipal building. Maybe they could use the empty office in the entrance to the public library.

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