Asking the property owners of Oak Park to agree to a 150 percent increase in their taxes for the park district is an excessive request and demonstrates a failure by the Park District Board to spread the burden to pay for this need.
Families who are on fixed or slowing-rising incomes will be unfairly impacted.
Oak Park families are already challenged to keep up with constantly rising taxes, rising costs of college educations, their own retirements and escalating medical costs.
Requesting voters to agree to be taxed the maximum increase allowed by law, shows little effort at intergovernmental cooperation and no accounting for the substantial increases in the park district budget that already have occurred over the last several years due to increase in the value of Oak Park homes.
What is amazing about this request is a total lack of justification as to why this burden is being disproportionately levied on property owners without any discussion of alternative ways or participants to pay for this bill.
For instance, are user fees being increased for heavy consumers of park services? If so, by how much?
Instead of a turf war between the village board and the park board, should not the taxpayers have a right to demand cooperation in the delivery of this type of service to maximize the use of existing resources and to avoid duplication of costs? After all, the village still owns seven of the recreation centers and should remain responsible for their maintenance.
To compound this situation, more property tax increases are on the way for Oak Park taxpayers. In June we will be reassessed and the increase in our property tax bills will be significant.
We also will be responsible for paying the cost of rebuilding the 20 million equipment storage facility, which recently burned down.
We are still paying for a very expensive library and importantly, there is absolutely no assurance that the present 1.6 million levy by the village board for the park district will abate with this tax increase.
As to any assertion that our home prices may increase due to nicer parks, this will in all likelihood be offset by the high property taxes that potential purchasers of our homes will face. Higher taxes mean there is less money available to purchase a home.
Simply put, higher taxes make homes less affordable and less attractive. Taxpayers should not forget that when they sell their homes, the village will take .8 percent or $8 per $1,000 of the selling price in the form of a transfer tax. By comparison, the transfer tax in River Forest is only 1 percent or $1 per $1,000 of value.
The voters of Oak Park should vote "no" on THIS park district referendum and force the park board and village board to devise a plan which delivers park services in a cost-effective manner without placing a disproportionate burden on property owners.
When they have gone through a thoughtful process of trying to save the taxpayers some money, they can then come back to us with a moderate proposal that is respectful of the economic challenges that Oak Park families face every day.
John S. Huntley