Many of Oak Park homeowners had to catch their breath last week after receiving notice of assessment raises from 20 to 25% or more. Ever-increasing taxes are driving seniors and lower-income people out of Oak Park. So diversity is slowly bleeding out, leaving only the high-income families here.
Ali ElSaffar, Oak Park Township assessor, appeared before Oak Park-River Forest Rotary some years ago and spoke to the issue of Oak Park's high taxes. He said Oak Parkers almost always approved referendums. Doing that places a new floor over the other previous referendums and gives the various taxing bodies a whole new basis to figure taxes from.
It has been the practice of the schools, especially, to go the max on what they could levy, saying that is the only way they can stay ahead of rising costs. We hear very little from either High School District 200, which saw no problem in running up a $100 million surplus, or Elementary District 97 on how they might try to lower their levies or hold the line on what we are paying each tax time.
No, we only hear about "improvements," more administrative positions, and higher overall salaries for teachers and aides. If it had not been put to a referendum, we would have $44.5 million to pay for the high school pool project, but that narrowly failed, partially reflecting the fact that this community is being "taxed out." Are we really certain that more children are coming? Better review the estimates because the families that have the most children can't afford to live here.
Now before I vote on the two D97 referendum items, raising taxes $74 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, is anyone figuring in the fact that most properties are being re-assessed at 25% upwards? Or is the increased assessment simply more jam on top of an already too buttered piece of tax bread.
Charles Chauncey Wells