To the president and board of the village of Oak Park and the president and board of school district 200:
Re: School surplus and village deficit
Dan Haley reported in his column (July 10) that OPRF High School has a fund balance of $120 million. I would like to make a modest proposal.
Since OPRF has a surplus and the village parking fund has a deficit, I suggest that the high school pay to the village either all, or the remainder of, the cost of the high school's parking garage and its future maintenance.
As I remember, the village built the garage on high school property. The garage was not needed in the first place — a parking lot would have sufficed. Its original cost of $4 million became $7 million when the cost of financing was added, all at taxpayer expense for Oak Parkers (though not River Foresters). All opposition to the garage's construction was obstructed by the high school's administration and board and by the village's administration and board.
The public was not told about two important factors. It is my understanding that an agreement was made so that for 25 years the high school staff using the garage would not be charged to park there. It is also my understanding that it costs the village at least $2,000 per parking space to maintain any of its garages, another on-going expense to Oak Parkers.
Any agreements involving the garage were made as part of some deal between school districts 97 and 200 and the village regarding the renewal of the downtown TIF. It's too bad that the TIF arrangement was later negotiated privately between the school boards and the village board rather than going to court. The taxpaying public was again denied the full story of how our tax dollars continue to subsidize the high school parking garage.
It seems no wonder that current school and village boards were elected out of a public mistrust of earlier boards. Perhaps it is not too late to renegotiate a situation that continues to take advantage of Oak Park taxpayers. The high school can afford to buy the garage from the village and take full financial responsibility for it. Our village parking fund deficit can be cleared with our own taxpayer dollars. That seems fair enough to me.