Referendum is worth the price, but village can help lower the burden

Opinion

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I've never been a frequent letter writer to the papers, but this is a note that I would be writing even if I weren't a village trustee or candidate for village president.

I want to encourage you to support the park district referendum on April 5. The district has been under-funded for decades, with no levy increase since I was growing up in Oak Park. This has resulted in the deterioration of fields and rec centers, and has negatively impacted district programming.

Park properties and programs are shared resources specifically designed to serve the needs of literally every person in this community. Offerings include active sports activities, but they also include community center programming, like children's summer camps, as well as social, cultural and fitness programs for people from age 1 to 100.

These offerings support informal recreation, providing places to walk, sit, gather, play, and just be. At the same time they support the work of other very important organizations in our community that offer recreational opportunities, including Oak Park Youth Baseball/Softball, the Windmills, Strikers, AYSO, and others.

Will there be a financial impact to the average taxpayer from the proposed 25-cent levy increase? Yes. Will it be dramatic? No. Can the impact be minimized through effective coordination between the park district and the village? Absolutely. Are there other places to find efficiencies that can help to offset the financial impact to taxpayers? I believe that there are. Will we do this? I hope so.

Over the past decade or more, some significant mistakes have been made on all sides. The issue today, however, should not be recriminations for past missteps, but rather how we can ensure that we have facilities and programming that meet our community's current and future needs, while ensuring financial responsibility. Passage of the referendum is an important and overdue step along this path. I hope that we can all take this step together.

David Pope
Oak Park

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