I was happy to hear that the Park District of Oak Park was putting a referendum for increased funding on the April 5th ballot. My family uses many park district programs and facilities so the need to invest in the facilities is obvious to me. The parks have played an important role in our lives. We have met friends at park district programs and have deepened many friendships around the playgrounds, pools and fields. My children participate in athletic and educational programs. We stroll through the Conservatory on dreary winter days and swim in the pools on steamy summer days. We were married at the Cheney Mansion and relive that day every time we return.
While I love our parks, the prospect of higher taxes does not excite me so I sought to educate myself. The facts convinced me the referendum is not only needed but is a good value. Two citizens groups and an independent consultant agree on the need to realign and increase the park district's funding. Since the 1991 tax caps, the costs to operate and maintain the park district have increased faster than the property tax income it receives. The park district has made operational changes but these changes will never generate enough funds to cure years of deferred maintenance. Under funding of the park district is clear when you compare the 2 percent of our property taxes it receives to the 5 percent norm for similar communities. Finally, the proposed increase is less than any of the referendums passed over the last ten years.
I encourage Oak Park voters to seek out more information. Renew Our Parks, a citizens group supporting the referendum, is participating in many public forums to enable voters to educate themselves. Once the facts are known, I am convinced Oak Parkers will vote to renew our parks.
Treasurer, Renew Our Parks