There are a lot of ideas floating through Oak Park's village hall right now. That's all good. Unleashing staff to use their expertise in areas of budgeting, parking, policing, etc. would be a positive change in an environment where professionals have too frequently held back, worrying that initiative would not be rewarded.
Another new idea came out of the parking division last week as the board's finance committee worked toward a 2014 budget. This idea is to eliminate the requirement for vehicle stickers and to substitute a small hike in the village's share of property taxes to offset the lost revenue from the window decals.
It's an intriguing idea. Everyone is annoyed by vehicle stickers. You have to remember to buy them by mail or stand in line at village hall on deadline day under threat of higher fees and vigilant ticket writing. You have to remove the old sticker, or risk becoming one of those people with 11 stickers running up and down the right side of your windshield.
Now there are some equity issues with property tax replacement concept. If you currently have three cars, upping your property taxes by the estimated $95 a year will prove a cost savings for your household. If however, you've bought into the village's sustainability mantra and have just a single car, or no car at all, then you're paying extra into the village's property tax bucket and it won't feel great.
The parking department people say they can save taxpayers overall about $150,000 annually by eliminating the stickers. No mailing costs. No staff costs for processing. No prize money for the grade school kid who designs the sticker. Taking costs out of Oak Park's village government is always appealing.
But before we leap at this notion, we'd reorient the discussion to what we believe ought to be the starting question for every problem village hall identifies: How can we bring technology to bear on this?
How can we most efficiently sell vehicle stickers digitally? When and how are we using technology to streamline overnight parking passes, maybe even turn it into a revenue stream? If we accomplish those things, can we save two or three clerical positions in next year's village budget? That's real savings — bankable and long-term.
The no vehicle sticker solution is worth a good airing. The technology investment solution comes first.