The proposed District 97 referendum should be voted down.
This proposed increase will push our village closer to the edge — or over the edge — of a real estate tax cliff that will scare homebuyers away from Oak Park. All of our advantages will be squandered if we continue on this path.
Let's look at a number, the ratio of home sale price to tax rate. This ratio is becoming increasingly out of whack in Oak Park, compared to other nearby communities with good schools, even before the proposed tax increase. According to a real estate formula, taxes (on new construction) are generally expected to be around 2 percent of a sale price. But recent sales in Oak Park are sometimes coming in much higher, at 3.5 percent or more.
Comparing real estate numbers with neighboring towns is unsettling. For example, a three-bedroom home on South Oak Park Avenue sold in January for $335,000, according to the Multiple Listing Service. The assessed tax bill in 2008 was $11,842, a 3.6 ratio. A one-story house sold on the north side last year for $255,000 and had an $11,690 tax bill, a whopping 4.6 ratio. In comparison, a three-bed, two-bath home in Elmhurst sold around the same time for $435,000 and had 2009 property tax bill of $7,415.64 — or 1.9 percent.
Oak Park is objectively out of step on property taxes, according to general standards, and by comparison with our neighbors. We should not let it get worse than it is now.
Our neighbors tell us: "We moved to Oak Park for the schools." I am a Catholic school parent, but I have a strong stake in the quality of the public schools as well. Good schools mean solid property values, involved parents, interesting and educated neighbors — in fact, the whole Oak Park experience.
But the current economic downturn is hurting everyone. People are losing jobs, losing overtime, being forced to take furlough days, losing business, losing customers and losing sales. We have all seen our 401(k) reduced, and our property values fall. Meanwhile grocery prices are going up, and gas prices are going up. These are tough times. And on top of that, our tax bill has doubled in the 10 years we have lived in Oak Park. The village is earning a well-deserved reputation for having crushing taxes. Our housing market, our property values and ultimately the future of our schools will all suffer if we continue down this road.
District 97: This is a terrible time for a tax increase.