No decision on new D97 headquarters expected Saturday

Dec. 14 joint meeting with village expected to be information only

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

District 97 and the Village of Oak Park will host a joint public meeting this Saturday concerning the possibility of building the school district's new headquarters behind village hall on Madison Street. 

But the school district and village don't plan to make a decision about that project or any possible sites at the Dec. 14, meeting scheduled for 8:30 a.m. at Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison St. The two taxing bodies plan to discuss that project and get feedback from the community. 

A discussion about the Madison Street TIF will also take place at the Saturday morning session. The meeting will be more informational, including providing a background of the TIF and how it works, says Bob Spatz, president of the D97 Board of Education.

Officials from the two taxing bodies insist the two sides are only discussing the idea of D97 relocating to a newly-built structure on the village hall parking lot. 

Last week, the D97 board, at its regular meeting, discussed the upcoming joint meeting and what its members would like to see come out of it. A better understanding about the TIF would help not only the public but board members as well, said member Jim O'Connor. 

The Madison TIF provides payments to every Oak Park taxing body, including D97 and the village. But how that money gets distributed to the taxing bodies impacts how that money can be spent, said Spatz.

"This is an important distinction we need to make — if the village makes a surplus through the county, it comes to the district as un-restricted funds and we can spend it on whatever we want," said Spatz. "If the village authorizes a TIF expenditure, it is very constrained as to what it can be spent on, and the village is the one that will need to answer that part of the question."

TIFs, also known as tax increment financing, sets aside a portion of property tax dollars for redevelopment of a particular community area; for instance, Oak Park's Madison and Downtown TIF districts. 

Cook County redistributes TIF funds — after all tax dollars are collected and calculated — to the taxing bodies. If the village authorizes a TIF expenditure from, say, the Madison TIF, those dollars can only be spent within that district.

"If it comes from a surplus distribution, then it's unrestricted," Spatz said. "We can spend it on whatever we want. If it's not a surplus distribution, it can only be spent on TIF-authorized things. It would be restricted to certain types of expenditures within the Madison Street corridor, which excludes all of our schools."

That's because D97 doesn't have a school building located on Madison Street, Spatz said.

Other board members chimed in on what to expect at Saturday's meeting. 

Board member James Gates wants to address community concerns and misunderstandings about the district's plans. 

"I want to allay any community concerns. I want to kill any conspiracy theories right out of the box," Gates said. "What is it that we're going to walk out of there with as a product that we can share with the media and the community?"

The meeting, Spatz said, should clear up how the village will meet past-due surplus payment obligations to the taxing bodies. The two sides also need to agree on how surplus payments are handled going forward, Spatz added. 

Another is whether the village wants to extend the Madison TIF and put more money into it. 

"So, it's what happens with the TIF, what's our expected cash-flow, is it restricted or unrestricted — that's the primary thing we need to get out of it," Spatz said.

As for the headquarters discussion Saturday, Spatz said the two sides will discuss if there's any interest in building behind village hall and how the two sides can share resources if that happens. 

Spatz and other members noted that the district is looking at other possible sites as well, including 101 Madison, which is on the market, or becoming a tenant at the proposed Madison-Highland office building being proposed. 

Some of that information should be provided by Saturday, Spatz said. 


Reader Comments

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Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: December 12th, 2013 9:56 PM

@Amy Wiliams. I back you 100%. Assuming D97 decided to move forward I think the next logical steps would be a nonbinding referendum in the next election and a slate of candidates to take on any Board members who support the building. See ya Saturday!

Amy Williams  

Posted: December 12th, 2013 9:14 PM

@OPDad, I agree w/ you. That's why I started my petition, small as it may be, though I'm hoping more people will sign it. I've yet to see anyone say this is a good idea. I say they open it up to a referendum and watch it go down in smoke, but I doubt that will happen. We fought this same battle one year ago. It's insulting that they are attempting to push this through yet again, hoping we have a short memory. Isn't insanity doing the same thing over, expecting different results? Let's show them!


Posted: December 12th, 2013 4:48 PM

From the article, it sounds like the decision is already made. There needs to be a way to collect feedback (if only someone would invent some device for sharing ideas without actually attending in person) where the Village could get feedback and a general sense of what % of the community actually supports a particular idea.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 12th, 2013 1:20 PM

As a former active Madison Housing Development opponent who experienced the Nimby attack from public officials, I hope you are wrong about the the current Oak Park Village Board (vastly improved) seeing opposition as a small group of neighbors. This is a village-wide issue that needs village-wide input. For the good of Madison Street commercial future, we have to end the village's willingness to support non-revenue projects while beating the drum and spending tax money for developments with tax revenue streams. I agree that D97 is being greedy in this instance and as a D97 Referendum supporter, I am appalled with its self centered proposal that makes a farce of the entire village.


Posted: December 12th, 2013 11:41 AM

Sadly, I think that no matter how many people show up to voice opposition to this insanely stupid idea, neither Board will be swayed. They will convince themselves that the opposition is in the minority and nothing will convince them otherwise. Their hope will be that by the time the next election or referendum rolls around, all will be forgotten.


Posted: December 12th, 2013 10:14 AM

SUBTERFUGE! Please note the disclaimer that it is "expected" to be information only. Don't put your guard down if you are against this supreme waste of our taxpayer money!

No New Building from OPRF  

Posted: December 12th, 2013 9:32 AM

Seriously?!? Maybe they're not related on a taxation/TIF basis, but I cannot believe the District would consider a new, air-conditioned builsing for the district until ALL STUDENTS in un-air-conditioned schools throughout the district have been attended to. That they plan to sit in comfort while hundreds of little kids and their teachers aren't able to concentrate in 90+ and 100-degree temperatures in August, September and May is just unconscionable. NO NEW BUILDING! See everyone on Saturday!

Amy Williams  

Posted: December 11th, 2013 8:22 PM

Spatz's quote, "We can spend it on whatever we want" is very telling, and conveys the arrogance and fiscal irresponsibility we've been forced to deal with lately. I liken it to getting an unexpected tax refund - someone irresponsible might view it as "found money" and blow it on silly things, but a responsible person would use it as an opportunity to pay bills, start a nest egg, and get ahead. This money comes from our taxes - you don't get to spend it on whatever you want w/o answering to us!


Posted: December 11th, 2013 7:59 PM

So the taxpayers know that the village board and the D97 board (and the construction companies) want a new building. Why is it that the D97 and village board members don't know that they are the ONLY ones (other than the construction companies) who want this waste of taxdollars? Are they not listening or do they just not care what residents and taxpayers think?

OP Rez 3296  

Posted: December 11th, 2013 6:50 PM

I don't think that having a meeting on a Saturday at 8:30 is a problem. that's just nitpicking. If the meeting was during the day on a weekday (work day), I could see complaining but I don't see this as a problem.

Christopher Williams from Oak Park  

Posted: December 11th, 2013 4:12 PM

UGGHHHH!!!!!! How condescending is this "conspiracy theory" quote? The Village and D97 are both on record from last year, when they wanted to build the building along with the Park District, that they wanted a building built on Village Hall. I understand that there has been no decision, but we KNOW there are D97 board members AND Village Trustees who want to the building on Village Hall property. We know that already. Mention "conspiracy" at the Saturday meeting - watch things get ugly fast

Amy Williams  

Posted: December 11th, 2013 3:36 PM

Sorry, that should've been:

Amy Williams from Oak Park  

Posted: December 11th, 2013 3:35 PM

If you're opposed to this project, please consider joining the NOD97BLDGHERE group - make your voice heard with the petition, even if you can't attend this ridiculously early meeting. D97 calls us "conspiracy theorists" & says we don't represent the majority of OP. Prove them wrong! Sign the petition at and like us at I have18x24 signs if you want one for your lawn or to carry to the meeting -


Posted: December 11th, 2013 3:25 PM

Ideally you fill the parking lot with early attendees to get a taste of the overcrowding. there is no reason to build new.

NoNewBuilding from Oak Park  

Posted: December 11th, 2013 3:10 PM

I plan to go even though the meeting is scheduled "conveniently" at 8:30 AM on a Saturday. I take this as another sign of the hubris of the D97 board and their short- sighted, selfish decision to move forward with the Taj Mahal. No new building!


Posted: December 11th, 2013 1:59 PM

If you are opposed to this new building plan, you should attend the Saturday morning meeting and voice your opposition as strongly as possible! NO NEW BUILDING!!!!!!

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