The Imagine OPRF Facilities Committee has spent many hours studying the current and future needs of OPRF High School and they should be commended for their hard work. Unfortunately, the solutions they propose are detrimental to the overall interests of the Oak Park and River Forest communities.
Property taxes have increased 160% in Oak Park and 72% in River Forest between the years 2000-2017. Our home values have not. While the District 200 school board graciously reminded us that they have restrained themselves with regard to increasing tax levels, we must remember the $100,000,000 plus of our money they have accumulated over the years. Considering recent changes in federal tax laws imposing a cap limiting property tax deductions and looming state of Illinois tax increases it is a fiscally challenging time to live in either village.
The Imagine OPRF plan is an astounding amount of money. An "estimated" current cost of $220,000,000 (likely to go much higher over the 10-year period) represents an expenditure of $8,180 for every household in Oak Park & River Forest. Even with a significant cash reserve, the Imagine project cannot be completed without a future additional tax referendum. This will be in addition to the already onerous tax obligations we currently have.
The new facility plan seems to confuse "want" with "need." It appears that approximately $67,000,000 is allocated to a new aquatics center and 59% of the estimated construction costs are related to physical education and athletics facilities. Approximately 16% of the budget estimate is earmarked for academics. We all have a "want" for children to have an opportunity to experience and be exposed to interesting and potentially life-changing experiences, but the primary goal of OPRF High School is to first satisfy the "need" for outstanding academics for all its students. Arts, physical education and other activities have great importance in a student's development but the Imagine OPRF proposal has its priorities in the wrong places. There must be a better balance.
No one will argue that the school should not address numerous issues and a comprehensive facility plan going forward is essential. But in preparing a facility plan for OPRF, it must do a better job of considering not only the needs of its students but also the community at large. It is not selfish for a resident to be concerned about the crushing tax burden in Oak Park and River Forest and its impact not only personally but to the community as well. The present and future fiscal environment and its impact on the social fabric of our two villages is literally the challenge we must address.
Tell the D200 board that now is the time to Re-Imagine the future of OPRF.
Richard & Barbara Gorman, Dawn Brightfield, Kari Hayden, Jane Driscoll, Marie Jensen
David & Leslie Alderman, Meg Osman
Answer Book 2018
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