Oak Park Township senior center seems frivolous

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Brian Lantz

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.

Reader Comments

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BGA Website Reader  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 8:21 PM

The Township Supervisor is the "board president" of the township. The board has hired Gavin Morgan (Twsp Mgr) for approx a six figure salary to manage, supervise and guide the township staff. The Township Supervisor isn't involved in the daily operations of the township.

BGA Website Reader from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 8:13 PM

Why does the Oak Park Township Supervisor make $20,000 per year in salary. This is an ultra part time job. A few hours a week at most. The Park Dist, both school boards and the library board all perform their respective job functions for no financial compensation.

Molly H from River Forest  

Posted: March 5th, 2011 9:53 AM

I could not agree more that the townships of both River Forest and Oak Park should be merged with their respective villages. The costs to support a seperate taxing body in our villages is as stated "antiquated and expensive." So how do we move forward to make this happen?

Brian Lantz of Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 7:01 PM

Thanks Tom. I guess the point is that the Township statutes are, to say the least, antiquated. Simply posting in three places the official notice. But, then being able to pass a million dollar measure with a simple 15 affirmative votes is absurb for places like Oak Park. Perhaps OK for the most rural areas of the state. This is what Township government in metro areas is, antiquated and expensive.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 5:22 PM

Jim, if I may answer, if the services now provided by the township were provided by the village, there would be much lower overhead costs. You would not need a township supervisor, the township administrator, the payroll people, etc....

Jim Taglia from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 4:37 PM

Brian, Why do you feel municipal government (in this case the Village) would be more efficient and less costly than Township government? The services provided by these two bodies are quite different and require different skill sets (i.e. case workers, interventionists, etc.).

Brian Lantz  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 2:32 PM

Jim, I agree there are vital services. However, as Tom points out and with which I agree, this can be folded nicely into municipal government. As the GAO pointed out clearly in its Fed report this week, there are too many jurisdictions doing the same with little coordinated effort. Thus waste. By the way, I have sought the Township assessor's assistance multiple times. Its "recommendation" was denied every time. Private legal counsel works, the Township does not.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 11:49 AM

Mr. Taglia, there is no reason the services that townships provide in urban areas cannot be provided by municipalities, especially in townships like Oak Park and River Forest which have boundaries that are coterminous with the municipalities. Little known fact, the City of Chicago also has townships but the city provides mental health, senior and youth services. Why can't the Village of Oak Park or River Forest do the same?

Jim Taglia from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 11:44 AM

While I understand what you are saying, eliminating Townships would leave a giant void in vital services for seniors, youth, mental health, etc. that NO other governmental unit would or could pick up. I'm certain the Township would welcome your input if you have specific ideas to help improve efficiencies. Regarding taxes, the Township levy is 2.5% of your tax bill. If you feel you were over assessed, however, make an appointment with the Township assessor's office file an appeal. They can help.

Brian Lantz  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 9:14 AM

The layers of services offered at municipal, county and state levels make Township structures obsolete in urban areas. Greater efficiencies are offered when these programs are coordinated. My taxes have increased over 100% in ten years, so not sure of your tax appeal arguement. But, $1,000,000 is something all OP taxpayers should decide, not just 100 or so people in attendence.

Jim Taglia from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 10:47 PM

As reported in the Wednesday Journal, the new senior center will be paid for out of existing Township reserves. There will be "new debt" being taken on as suggested by the writer. The Township provides vital social services in the areas of mental health, youth, public aid and seniors-- in addition to providing help in voter registration and appealing property taxes. All of these services enhance the quality of life in our "mature" village.

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