I can certainly relate to David Boulanger when he says that there are many good reasons for building a new senior center [New Senior Center Fits Perfectly on The Avenue in Oak Park, Feb. 22, 2011]. After all, for me, there are many good reasons for trading in my 12-year-old, 170,000-mile-old Suburban. Like my dear-old car, the current senior center location seems a bit less functional than it was. But is now the right time to spend the limited resources to replace it? By the way, what happened to the warm-water pool idea for seniors from a couple of years ago? I thought that seemed pretty important.
My oldest starts college in the fall and education has always been a priority for my family. But, with college costs at close to double-digit annual increases for years, I'm left a bit short of what I planned for expenses, so I'll have to reprioritize and make it work. Likewise, with this recession, we've had changes to our income, and current expenses are higher now relative to income, including higher local real estate, state income and county sales taxes. Again, we've been reprioritizing to meet this reality. We've always been pretty responsible, so our credit rating would attract very favorable rates. But taking on new debt at this time just doesn't seem a good idea in light of the family needs. Come to think of it, there seem to be some familiar themes common to my family and those of the township.
The seniors may need this, although I'm not close enough to the action to truly give an opinion. But, in your community, many of your taxpaying members have new priorities that don't support the tax payments on the expenditure for your senior center. For instance, and quite importantly, District 97 needs more money, and there's a referendum coming which if passed will be raising the taxes of the members of your community.
Now to my way of thinking, education has always been a very high priority for the community — as it should be. Our kids are the future of this community and good schools make this community an attractive place for people to live, consume and pay what have always been relatively high taxes. Although I don't think District 97 is completely done adjusting to meet the long-term revenue-expense demands of its present and future obligations, they have really worked hard to reduce costs and make do with less. They have proved to me they are working toward fiscal restraint, and that they are sensitive to their clients, the taxpayer. Recently, many of the teachers and staff have even committed to foregoing a pay raise, which actually makes sense since there's probably a lot of taxpayers who haven't seen a raise in a few years, or may even be out of a job.
I believe District 97 really is in a bind, that they really do need the money a tax increase will provide. That the referendum they seek is good for the health of the community and, thus, is needed. As part of the tax-consuming family to which the township belongs, I think you need to reprioritize your expenses so the kids can go to a good school and the taxpayers can keep their total expense burden in check. Cook County under Ms. Preckwinkle's leadership seems to be seeing the light, having put a sunset on the wholly unnecessary Stroger sales tax increase, even though the state, under Mr. Quinn, is oblivious. Hopefully, you and the township will get it too. That all taxes, taken together, are what faces the taxpaying public, and it can handle only so much.
At some future date, perhaps the family can debate why a township, as a separate taxing body and enclosed entirely within a mature city or village, is even needed.
Brian Lantz is an Oak Park resident.
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