By Terry Dean
Alan Reed's Facebook page, dedicated to opposing District 97's April 5 rate hike referendum, has a cartoon figure of a stick man struggling to hold the word "tax" over his head.
Reed, an Oak Park resident, thinks that's a perfect image to express how he and many other voters feel about rising taxes in the village of the years.
"We're among the most taxed communities in the Chicago area," said Reed, who strongly opposes the referendum.
Other residents in Oak Park do also, he said, but some are hesitant to speak out, fearing school-district retribution or persistent neighborhood squabbling over the issue. Reed, 41, who has two kids attending private school, said his stance is not anti-public schools in the district. Like a lot of residents, he says, he is just fed up with taxes constantly going up. And he isn't convinced the Oak Park elementary school district has made the case that's it's done enough to rein in expenses before going to the taxpayers.
Since moving to Oak Park in the mid-'90s, Reed said his taxes have steadily gone up while his home's value has gone done. He fears Oak Park will become a place that's too expense for people to live in.
"Oak Park will not be the diverse community people seek out if tax rates keep going up," he said.
The No Referendum Facebook page was not his creation initially. It was put up last month by an anonymous poster. Reed joined. When the site went down last weekend, he decided to put the page back up and currently maintains it.
"I liked the Facebook page. I posted some information on it," he said, adding that he's not part of any organized anti-referendum group or effort.
He insisted he's not opposed to funding education but the current economic climate was the worst time to ask weary voters for a tax increase. He also wonders if Dist. 97 has tried to seek money elsewhere, liking suing the village to release funds from the TIF (tax increment financing districts) or Oak Park and River Forest High School, which is flush with money.
The latter, the board can't sue by law. As far as the TIF, the district has been reluctantly embroiled in OPRF's lawsuit against the village over money Dist. 200 says is owed to the school districts.
Reed urges supporters of the referendum to put there efforts toward finding alternative ways to fund the district, such as through private groups like the Oak Park Education Foundation.
"I encourage them to vote with their dollars and not mine," he said.