Easy win for D97 tax hike

In tough year, voters OK referendum by 55%-45%


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Click here to see the results.

Oak Park property owners have spoken concerning their schools, and decisively.

District 97's rate hike referendum was approved by a 54.4 percent to 45.6 percent margin. The Yes votes totaled 6,067. No votes totaled 5,084.

The district won its $6 million increase, bringing its total levy to $48 million for the upcoming school year. The yes votes held a steady lead throughout the evening, 55 to 45 percent. All 45 precincts were reporting results by 9 p.m.

As a result, the eight elementary schools and two middle schools will avoid significant cuts in the 2011-12 school. Those reductions, which were approved last month, were set to take effect only if the referendum failed.

The last time the elementary school district raised the tax rate through a referendum was in 1989, more than 20 years ago. A successful referendum was passed in the early 2000s to sell bonds to build the two new middle schools.

Supporters of the referendum, including school board members, gathered Tuesday evening at Trattoria 225 on Harrison Street in Oak Park to watch the returns. About 75 people showed up and a festive mood prevailed as the final precincts reported.

"We are feeling pretty good about it," said Peter Traczyk, president of the District 97 school board.

Traczyk credited the success to the pro-referendum group, the Committee to Support Oak Park Schools.

"Absolutely it was the citizens to support Oak Park schools who were the key, and the steady number of volunteers that put it over the top," he said.

The road to Tuesday's vote was paved over nearly a decade as the school district made cuts, planned, postponed and then finally scheduled a referendum vote this spring.

And the referendum's likely impact on the district was known well before the final votes were cast.

With a referendum victory, the district would be able to plug a roughly $6 million hole in its budget. The district would also use the additional revenue to improve school grounds and make significant investments in technology. If rejected, deep cuts would take place to programs and staff in every building and at the central office.

But a few stumbling blocks occurred during the final stretch of the campaign. The language of the ballot question was scrutinized and questioned by the Oak Park Township Assessor, charging that it understated the impact to property owners.

The district had initially settled on a working cash bond sale referendum, last fall, which was a smaller amount and would eventually come off tax bills when the bonds were paid off. The district switched to a rate hike in mid-January just as the April ballots needed to be finalized. The change was made after the state raised taxes that month, giving the district a reasonable expectation that state aid would be paid in a timely fashion. District officials acknowledged that voters might be confused by the switch.

But officials and supporters nonetheless were optimistic that the measure would pass.

"We appreciate the voters listening to both sides and ultimately deciding to support Oak Park schools as we hoped they would," Traczyk said.

Referendum opponents waged what amounted to an unsuccessful campaign against the tax increase that began earlier this spring. They argued that taxes have steadily increased on property owners in recent years and that the current economic downturn was no time for another. They also argued that spending, especially on administrators and teacher salaries, should be cut before coming to voters.

The board in March had approved the elimination of 50 positions, including tenured and non-tenured teachers, to take effect in the upcoming school year if the referendum failed. Popular programs such as CAST and BRAVO, sports and arts were on the chopping block, but those programs are now spared.


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epic lulz  

Posted: April 10th, 2011 12:04 AM

@Dan Haley, for future reference, 79% is a landslide victory for a school referendum: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-homewood-referendum-20110410,0,263446.story

OP Resident  

Posted: April 9th, 2011 8:41 PM

No one talks anymore about the need for campaign finance reform. Russ Feingold was defeated and John McCain is a lost cause. Spending a billion dollars to win the White House is wasteful and disgraceful. The pols in D.C. and Springfield have become the court jesters of the multi-national corporations who are calling the shots. There are reports that lobbyists now write the actual legislation for our representatives. A shameful state of affairs.

Interesting from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2011 7:01 PM

@ Tom. Here's a list of the top 2008 contributors to Obama: http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cycle=2008&cid=N00009638. Plenty of banks and for 2012 he expects $1B more. Have you noticed how he and Geithner have set up much that benefits the banks and Wall St? And did you recently read how he appointed GE CEO to lead "President's Council of Jobs"? I don't have cable and have never seen Beck - your point? Personal Oracle? "OP Resident" has some intriguing points and I'll add J.C.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 9th, 2011 4:13 PM

No argument from me, Interesting. The influence of corporate lobbyists has corrupted the process & threatens the republic. Compound the problem with a lazy media & uniformed electorate and that's a recipe for disaster. I am concerned about the middle class & working poor. They are either demonized or dismissed from the discussion depending on the issue. Money flows to power. Our pols take care of those who take care of them. It's a rich man's game. You & Luke must be swimming in it. Congrats!

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: April 9th, 2011 3:26 PM

Interesting: Two things, first I didn't claim authorship of that line. I only approved its message. As for your other point, if Obama is so in the pocket of banking and corporations, why do banks and insurance companies give so much money to the GOP in 2010? Why would Obama push financial reform? Tell me what will you do for guidance now that your oracle Glenn Beck is fading into his much deserved obscurity?

Interesting from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2011 1:50 PM

@OP Resident. For 2 years the D's controlled everything in govt. In this period the "power" of banking and "corporations" did not decrease. Obama just appointed GE's CEO to head his Economic Advisory Panel. Your posts strongly suggest that you support the D's. Why aren't you aiming your venom at them or "govt"? Instead it's L. Scottwalker?!? Don't blame "filibustering," either - it didn't prevent ObamaCare. Also, middle-class squeeze to pay govt salaries, benefits & pensions is crushing.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 9th, 2011 1:14 PM

Luke Scottwalker uses such a broad brush; I'll bet he could paint my garage in about 30 mins. The title of "most corrupt, inefficent and abusive organization" has already been claimed by the health insurance companies but it looks like the banking industry is trying to wrestle away the crown. I do wonder if Luke is okay with GE paying $0.00 in federal taxes after posting $14 billion in profits? The company employs more than 900 people who's only duties are to figure out ways to scam the system.

Violet Aura  

Posted: April 9th, 2011 12:23 PM

A picture says a thousand words...In this case: "Let them eat hand-crafted, shade-grown, fairly-traded organic tofu." Lulz

Interesting from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2011 12:00 PM

Hey guys, google Tom's "brilliancy" and you'll see that his post, word for word, has simply been copied from other sites. It is nothing new. Here's one place: http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2009/03/ephemera-2009-7.html Ayn Rand is simply an interesting and provocative author who wrote about, imo (simplistically), the problems with over-reach in govt. I have kids and I cringe at the debt and mess that is being created today. Add in 3 wars. So, yes, John Galt has a point - orcs or not.

Comic Book Guy  

Posted: April 9th, 2011 8:01 AM

Tom from RF: Best comment, EVER!


Posted: April 9th, 2011 7:53 AM

@TomfromRF: Love it!

Mattie from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2011 7:37 AM

@TomfromRF I'll be sending you the dry cleaning bill for the shirt I just spit coffee all over. I'll be stealing that little gem. Wow.

Donald from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 3:55 PM

K - Fortunately for me I can move somewhere besides the locales you mention. It is not begrudging them $300 or so. It is the total tax bill has now reached a level that is absurd. You should note, assuming you pay property taxes, the percentage that go to the school districts before you excuse the increase on them not being able to make ends meet. They (97 & 200) take the highest percentage of the cash.

Easy Answer  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 2:54 PM

@Tom - ROFL! I hadn't heard that one. As the venerable sages that write the Simpsons said, it's funny because it's true. Also, you may enjoy this (warning, NC-17 material): http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2008/11/20tucker.html

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 2:33 PM

Easy: There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.


Posted: April 8th, 2011 2:31 PM

Never said corps were evil. They are simply required to exhibit sociopathic behaviors due to their fiduciary obligations to shareholders. Our corporate law structure is the problem. Regulation is a necessary evil, although you are correct that it isn't necessarily efficient. However, one of the dirty secrets of the government's inefficiency is that it was created by design by (generally) Repub political appointees in order to reduce public confidence in government.

Luke Scottwalker from oak park  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 2:22 PM

Easy...Those who criticize evil corporations usually point to govt as the solution. They say that taxes, regulations,etc will check the abuses of big companies. Who will regulate the government though? We live in a society where by far the most corrupt, inefficient and abusive organization is the government itself. Govt is not limited by the free market- if they provide services or goods people don't want they simply can force people to pay anyways.

Easy Answer from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 2:01 PM

Whew! Finally a question I can answer! John Galt is a made-up character in a two-dimensional world, created by a woman with very little understanding of economics, real free-market capitalism and how it doesn't really exist anymore, or the concept of externalized costs that allow corporations to make obscene profits at the expense of our health, environment, and infrastructure. Anything else?

Who is John Galt? from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 10:08 AM

To the Southies: I get the "Love it or leave it" attitude and the power of your bully union -- but be careful what you ask for since some serfs not on the public dole are still needed to pay your salaries and enviable bennies via forced taxation.


Posted: April 8th, 2011 9:32 AM

To put it more accurately: the 20% annual pension inflation raises which the OP teachers union demanded and D97 granted as a matter of course for years were discontinued last year when the state finally outlawed such gross abuses of the sytstem. And pension inflation raises are still part of the pay structure, only scaled back to a slighly less outrageous percentage.


Posted: April 8th, 2011 8:23 AM

The drastic bump ups are no longer in the pay structure at D97. This changed a year or two ago.


Posted: April 8th, 2011 7:18 AM

@OPSouthy...It's not a question of worth-that's a feeling! Money decisions should be made based on facts. ...and those are that the system is unsustainable. (bump ups before retirement, annual increases of 3 % as in tenure....) I am a co-owner of a business and financial decisions need to be talked about and changed almost on a daily basis right now. I think the public sector should reflect that fiscal responsibility and the fact is is does NOT!


Posted: April 7th, 2011 9:44 PM

Thank you TJK. And I wont not say its an arrogant statement. All Im really saying is if OP isnt worth it than go somewhere else that is. Every suburb has vacant houses and people everywhere are having a tough time selling homes. Not just in OP. I voted yes because teachers impacted my life and my kids lives. They are worth the money they make.

I hear you  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 6:46 PM

The value of money has changed. Staycations have replaced all-inclusives. Absence of raises and bouts of unemployment happened hurting savings. Job uncertainty has throttled spending. Jewel and Dominicks lowered their prices. People are looking for value and a good bang for their buck. The mindset has changed. People are looking at that annual tax cost in the overall picture and that has changed in the last 4 years. You must know some people who have been impacted. It changes your thinking

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 5:36 PM

OP Southy's point is that people are exaggerating the impact of the referendum on their financial well-being, and overstating the impact of property taxes on home sales. Homes that sold 4 years ago in weeks today take longer to sell and sell for less. That has little to do with property taxes, the structure of which has not changed since I moved here in '05. What has changed is the market. Foreclosures, vacancies, lower prices are not unique to Oak Park. Point me to a suburb where it's diffent.


Posted: April 7th, 2011 4:11 PM

@Southy: I dunno what things are like in south OP, but up here on my northy block, walking distance to a D97 school, at least three houses have been sitting vacant for well over two years. (Well OK, one was rented out for a short time and one apparently was severely damaged by homeless squatters.) Yeah, maybe the previous owners did as you say and moved on when they couldn't hack OP's extremely high cost of living - but no one is lining up to fill their shoes.


Posted: April 7th, 2011 3:42 PM

@OP Southy: Kind of an arrogant attitude don't you think? Do you know anyone trying to sell their house currently? I know several and it's not going well because THE TAXES ARE SO MUCH HIGHER than comparable suburbs. Believe me if I could get what our house is worth, I'd be out of here.

D97 Salaries  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 2:57 PM

Hey Matt, those salaries (salaries only!) make me wish I had taken this career path. In the private sector, salaries get capped, but not here and look at those tenures! And, nine months a year. This explains the problem. Unions can sure make a differece. So,cutting cost at D97 is like the Repubs focusing on the discretionary (8% slice0 of the Federal budget.

Matt from Oak Park  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 2:14 PM

After doing some research it seems a large part of the budget problem is overcompensating a small minority of the staff. Regardless of experience and education, do we need to pay a few elementary/middle school teachers $100-135K to maintain good schools? The top 100 salaries include librarians, art and gym teachers: http://www.familytaxpayers.org/salary.php

Oak Park Southy  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 11:42 AM

It seems really simple to me. The cost of living in Oak Park is a extremely high amount. If you dont want to pay it and you dont think its worth it just move on. Looks like alot of people are staying and willing to pay and see the benefit in it. Stop with all the poverty and can barely make it talk. Its gettting old


Posted: April 7th, 2011 10:16 AM

@Adele: Couldn't agree with you more. Easy spin. 45%/55% does not equal landslide. My biggest concern is apathy. I know several people who would have voted no had they bothered to show up. That upsets me the most.

Kevin from Oak Park  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 9:06 AM

Sam, perhaps I am incorrect on the amount of money teachers pay into their pension, but you didn't mention the health insurance? And as far as social security, no I don't expect to see a dime of that money. I pay into my own retirement because I am fairly certain the system will be broke in 30 years when I need it.


Posted: April 7th, 2011 5:00 AM

@yes pays: by your logic, I don't use the park district or the senior center, so I shouldn't pay for that. Or the high school or the fire department. So I shouldn't pay for that. Federally, if I am a pacifist, I shouldn't pay for defense. Etc. etc.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:49 PM

@sam Form. So What? People pay 6.x into SS. Many don't count on it. Also they pay into their 401k 6% and better. So that makes 12% and yes more than you state. What's your point?

sam form OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:11 PM

Kevin from OP. You talk about things you know nothing about. Every teacher in OP and RF pays more per month into the retirement system than you pay into social security. Are you planning on not collecting you social security and just paying your own way??? Don't let the facts get in the way of your argument...

Yes votes pay all?  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:19 PM

how about the yes votes pay the tax increase while the no votes don't?


Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:13 PM

@TJ, I have friends who hire for Chicago and they are frustrated by that requirement. Because as big as Chicago is, the best person for the job may not live in the city.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:43 PM

FYI City of Chicago Police and Fire unions are looking at removing the requirement of living in the city if you work there. Due to what went on with the new mayor. Most want to move out to the subs.

T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:31 PM

One more thing. I think every gov't entity in Oak Park should have a requirement that their employees must live in Oak Park. I suppose you could grandfather current employees, but all new hires must live in OP. Chicago does it, why can't we? Nothing like a little skin in the game...

T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 7:49 PM

It won't be long before some other taxing body (park dist) is also asking voters for a tax increase. It'll pass and then average people like me will move a few more steps closer to poverty.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 7:46 PM

How does one get something on a ballot? I'd like to see a 2/3 majority requirement for tax-related items. This election demonstrated the flaws in the system. Very pleased with tge "no" turnout.

Past Resident of OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:56 PM

@tjk - It's not rocket science. Everything is interconnected. Keep hiking property taxes, and business rents & operating costs go up, shops charge more to cover costs, local shoppers feel the pinch & buy less at "boutique" shops with higher prices, 12 months later another empty storefront. What can the village to do?? Pay the shop's rent and then tax homeowners for economic development stimulus?? If the rapidly declining middle class can get on their feet there can be a turn around.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:54 PM

One great way to see how the money is spent and budgets are treated is to attend board meetings, or even to participate as a committee member. It's hard work, but quite an education. You don't have to be a parent to participate. The packets are also posted online and are quite accessible.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:45 PM

@ Alan: Next up is the planned development for the current Comcast building. You're going to want to pay attention to this one.

Pat from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:35 PM

I voted no because I'm still not convinced this tax hike is necessary. But having been out-voted I hope D97 is ready to come under the microscope in the ensuing years. We, the taxpayers of Oak Park will be watching to see how the money is spent, how the budgets are treated, and what steps are taken to cut costs - particularly with regard to administrative and salary/benefits costs. I'm all for the money going to programs for the kids, but with limits.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:26 PM

Very sad. Small businesses are really suffering. I know first hand working at one in chicago. But, have also talked to a few here in OP. We are borrowing from Peter to pay Paul so to speak just to keep going. Sad time in this country. Hopefully it will get better, must keep a positive attitude!


Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:07 PM

@tjk I guess your right. It's the buyers choice to buy and pay the tax. the only reason I was able to was due to the current economy. To your other point about buisinesses relocating to FP, I overheard the owner of Shauers Hardware on the phone saying that everyone on madison is dieing. He sounded totally stressed out. FP has their share of empty storefonts. I almost cried when the eviction notice went up on pasta shoppe

Kevin from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:04 PM

Why is it necessary for the residents of any village to pay for their own retirement and health insurance and for those of the teachers and police and fire fighters? How about they step up and pay for their own benefits. I wish I could make $100k and get free insurance too! I pay $1000 a month to live in a house I own outright. There's just something very wrong with that!

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:53 PM

@next up, I work in chicago and deal with city employees! The police and fire unions are looking into changing that requirement on residence. Remember the new Mayor's question of residency? It is being discussed. Will not work with D97.

Prudence from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:49 PM

@tjk: We agree again on all points. That said, it's a long-term and slow-burn project to build a more significant non-residential tax base here. The new Village Board should roll-up their sleeves and get started!

Next Up...  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:42 PM

How about we enact legislation that D97 employees live in Oak Park? It works for Chicago and then there will be something more personal at stake, their own money!

working class joe  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:41 PM

i love the diversity of oak park - white, rich and liberal. the new tax will just continue the trend.

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:40 PM

@Prudedence: I have no idea, honestly. But I do know there's something wrong when a business like Thyme & Honey leaves a prime spot and moves to the next town - so they keep their clientele but pay their taxes elsewhere. We need to figure this out. What we don't need are people like Carolina Song (see her "open letter") making veiled threats to boycott businesses because they disagree with her. Sure, she'll just lead the charge for another referendum when business revenues decline. Pathetic.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:35 PM

@tjk You make a good point! Schools are only part of the blame. Oak Park has had a bad history of attracting and retaining businesses. I wish we had an area like Madison in FP. to bring in some revenue. But NO, everything here takes SOOOO long just to get out of village hall.

Prudence from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:29 PM

@tjk: Agreed. Budgets are easier to balance where there are more dollars coming in. So, why is Oak Park so business un-friendly? Or is it just that hard to make a business function over the long-term here?

Alan from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:27 PM

So what's next on the agenda?

It's All Good from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:21 PM

Whether the Referendum passed or failed, the sun was still going to keep coming up and Oak Park was still going to be a pretty good place to live. Perfect? Nope, not even close. But pretty good.

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:19 PM

The biggest problem I see with our property taxes is the burden put on the homeowners because OP cannot attract and/or retain businesses. Vacant properties at OP Ave. and Lake St. for years. Thyme and Honey went to FP three freakin' years ago and they just sold the building this week. VMA has done nothing to attract and retain businesses, and they keep winning elections. Why? My point - high property taxes stink. Schools are to blame some, but venom should be directed elsewhere as well.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:18 PM

@jaybird, well, good luck to you and your family. Expect that tax bill to keep on going up! @ too freaking bad I really hope you are correct. We are all going to be fine, just not as well off as maybe we thought we would be.

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:14 PM

Jaybird, you're kind of proving my point - your dad know OP taxes were high - OP has had that reputation forever. It did not stop property values from skyrocketing in the middle of the last decade, and it is not causing them to tank now. OP is part of the overall marketplace. I think folks are giving property taxes too much weight in the property value equation. Buyers look at what you're getting for the taxes. Some things we have in OP are pretty darn good - that's why we live here, right?

oak park parent  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:13 PM

wow, way to elevate the rhetoric, jaybird.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:10 PM

@Too freaking bad your right that will not happen. you will keep bending over to take it


Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:08 PM

@M on Ridgland thanks. My wife and I had a condo in FP for since we got married and ride the L to work. We enjoy the OP culture, public transit, central location between work/family in west suburbs, and have an addiction of thai food which only New Pot can satisfy. I was raised in the west subs and knew that I didn't want to raise my family out there.

Too freaking bad  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:08 PM

. . . that the teacher-haters and anti-tax wingnuts and various other soreheaded prophets of doom on this board will get to benefit from the Village's move to protect one of its biggest selling points and most valuable assets. When the mass foreclosures and strategic defaults don't materialize, when the Village isn't a ghost town as they seem fervently to hope will happen, will they come back on here and recant? Doubt it. To the rest of you: don't believe the hype; we're going to be fine.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:59 PM

@jaybird, Welcome to Oak Park! What was your reason to purchase a home here? (Your Dad does have a point!)


Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:54 PM

M on Ridgland - My agent is my mom. She's been selling for 25 yrs in Hinsdale, Western Springs, Clarendon Hills, Oak Brook, Burr Ridge, and so on and is top performing agent. She was appalled to see what OP'ers where paying is taxes. My Dad told me to get used to bending over when i moved to this town.

I hear you  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:53 PM

2005 is when my RE Taxes jumped 35%. Prop taxes were high in 1998 when I bought and I knew that. 2 middle schools a library and a D200 referendum and they are at 14k. if you bought in 2005 '06 or '07 your financial position is better than mine. I couldn't have bought my house then. Just a fact. So lets say the taxes you signed on for at the time were 10-12k a year. If they turn into 33k a year in 2018 you'll know how I feel. @David I guess it could fetch 375k. Zillow sez 415

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:49 PM

Reason is was asking, I spoke to an agent who works more on the North side sub. area and she just expressed that she would love to sell a house here, but too much for her buyers. I know taxes are high, purchased in 1984 $1,100, 2011 $10,900!


Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:42 PM

@Dan Haley, with all due respect, there is a huge difference between "landslide" and "easy win." As someone who, along with my friends, spent a lot of time pounding the pavement getting the message out, I have to assure you that there was nothing "easy" about this win.

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:40 PM

By the way, this reporting is SO bad, it's a joke. It's bad enough they reported 4,000 no votes until someone here pointed out the error. How about some simple math: 6,067 yes votes, divided by 11,151 total votes = 54.4%. But heck, let's round up to 55% because it's more supportive of the "landslide" headline. I hope the writers and editors of the WJ weren't educated in D97!

jaybird from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:34 PM

M on Ridgeland - yes oak park taxes are higher. I just bought 6 mo ago in south east oak park. The only reason I could afford the taxes is i bought it for 100k. It sold for $350 in 2006.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:33 PM

Oak Park property taxes are essentially a second mortgage, including what happens when you don't pay them. They were very high and now they are even higher. Did any one read that John Cullerton, IL Senate Pres., recently suggested that wealthy suburbs take on funding their teacher's pensions (instead of the state)? Imageine. IL is virtually insolvent and that will come home to roost, and there will be federal impact, too. Voluntarily adding to the burden only makes it worse.

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:30 PM

@epic: You're wrong about where we differ. I'm concerned about high taxes (including mine), and people being taxed out of their home (including me someday). But that's a different issue than the effect of this referendum. Our overall tax structure has not changed much in 6 years - we were high then, we're high now. My comments are to refute the "this will change the desirability/attracivenessto potential buyers, etc." attitude. Overall I agree I'd love to see the tax structure changed.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:29 PM

@Alan, Yes. Everyone is saying how OP is diverse. But that may not be the case in the future. Socioeconomic issues may change that makeup.

Adele from op  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:26 PM

6067 yes vs 5084 no = easy win? More like easy spin.

S. McDuck  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:24 PM

My home value just tripled yesterday. I had it listed for the past year and I now raised the asking price and have five young Chicago families in a bidding war.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:20 PM

@tlk, well, that's where we differ. I'm more concerned with people losing their homes. You're more concerned with quibbling over where the tipping point is.

jaybird from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:19 PM

moving on - I hear you. My son is 2 and I've got another on the way. I'd be fine with D97 teaching with dirt piles, twigs, and rain water.... all free and more fun.

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:19 PM

@ perspective: You are right as well. But OP has had one of the highest tax rates in Cook Cty. for a long time. It was true when I bough 6 years ago, and it's true now. Four years ago, a house down the block from me sold for $800K, quickly. Two years later, it sold for $725 after a few months. Now it would probably get $650 and be on the market a lot longer. Point is, the tax structure hasn't changed. The market has. Doesn't mean I like high taxes, but don't make this something it's not

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:17 PM

The dialogue must continue and voters need to stay current with what D97 does in the future. I had seen a comment of asking any Real Estate agents in the area what are potential buyers saying? I would also like to know. Are we taxed too high?

Alan from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:16 PM

@ M on Ridgeland from Oak Park. I think you are correct in your perspective of things. The issue is no longer, is this or that a worthy cause to finance. The issue is how can the middle class hold up under tier upon tier of never ending increases in taxation. There are ALWAYS good and worthy issues out there. That is NOT the question. The question is what can the middle class person afford and at what point is the line drawn. It MUST be drawn somewhere if it is not too late already.

moving on  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:04 PM

I think newer Oak Park families with younger children felt like their kids would be missing out on something if the increase didn't pass. Funny because my kids had less, got a nice education and we could afford to live here. Things have changed. If you've ever seen what goes on for a classroom party, halloween or valentine's day, recently in the schools, it is crazy overboard. I feel a little sorry for these folks...very entitled group.

David W. RIstau from Lahaina, Maui, HI  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:04 PM

? for I hear you; 1:53 pm post: Has your house value increased by a factor of 3.04 since 1998? It seems to me most of these "yes" people could toot their horns on "valuable schools" if your house selling price has gone up lock-step with the increase in property taxes. Other taxing bodies on your tax bill have also contributed to the tripling of your RE bill. Any gues what this referendum will add to your 14k bill?

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:57 PM

Walked w/ my neighbor this Am, we both voted no. Started discussing what I had seen posted on WJ. We are getting hit on all sides financially in our lives. People are concerned about what is ahead in the future. Will we recover? When? At what costs? The comment of $38 per $1,000 is not a true cost for this referendum.

JRussell from A town with good 'rithmatic  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:55 PM

Yes, $20 is ~38% of $52k, and it is also ~28% of $72k. So, do Berwyn teachers make 28% less, do Oak Park teachers make 38% more, or do we all just need a hobby??

I hear you  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:53 PM

Frame of reference tjk. I moved here in 1998 even though the property taxes where high at 4600. I bought a house at the higher range around 240k. Now it stands at 14k and going upward. My level of financial comfort is low and if I were buying at 2005 prices I wouldn't be here and some of my longer neighbors as well.

jaybird from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:52 PM

Well now my taxes will be over double my mortgage. Awesome! I feel sorry for any trying to sell your houses right now. I always wonder why people who come up with these financial plans don't usually live their personal lives the way they run public institutions. It's much easier to spend other peoples money. I do know a guy who lives like that and he declares bankruptcy when he can't get anymore credit. Is that what our gov will do eventually?

Catherine from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:51 PM

I struggled with voting NO but I did because I was hoping it would force the community to have some conversations. If we truly value education then why do we let some of our children (D200) sit on $80 million surplus while our other children face cuts? Why beautiful needless bricks on OP Ave & South Marion when the improvements to Marion haven't made it a bustling area YEARS later. Yes, it's different taxing bodies but it's all our hard-earned money & D97 should have grown a backbone years ago!!


Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:42 PM

Berwyn D100 Avg Teacher Salary: $52,205. OP D97 Avg Teacher Salary: $72,208. $52K x 138% = $72K. D97 salaries are 38% higher than D100. I stand corrected. Source http://iirc.niu.edu/District.aspx?districtID=06016100002

not gracious at all  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:42 PM

Sorry, I meant voters, not households.

not gracious at all  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:37 PM

Let's not forget, 5,000 households VOTED NO!!!!!!!!!!

Perspective from OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:37 PM

@tjk: You're right, the impact of this referendum is unlikely to be the thing that keeps people from buying here. But, the fact that OP will have the highest tax rate in Cook County might. That's the result of years of tax increases. All of them probably made perfect sense in and of themselves in the time they were on the ballot.

Kevin in Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:31 PM

I love how teachers have become the new vilified "lawyers" in today's society

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:29 PM

...lowering property values. The overall tax structure of OP hasn't changed that much in the last 6 years. 6 years ago, houese sold quickly for lots of money everywhere. That's not the case not, but it's not because D97 is getting $38 more per $1,000 of property taxes.

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:28 PM

@epic-If you read my posts yesterday, I was very critical of people who said this was no big deal and was insensive to people who are truly hurting. What I'm more disapppointed in, however, is the exaggerations people are making regarding the effects of the referendum. I moved to OP in 2005. I knew the taxes were high, I thougt it was worth it for the schools, parks, and proximity to the city. This referendum alone has not made such a dramatic change that it is pushing people out or...


Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:26 PM

@Telling - Not to quibble a small point, but the average salaries of elementary teachers in the two Berwyn districts are about 26-28% less than those in D97. Not even close to the 40% you quote. But what's a small exaggeration among friends?

Past Resident of OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:25 PM

@tjk - Wow, why so angry? Have you recently sat down with a realtor to price your home for market like we did? Have you just spent 2 years trying to sell, dramatic price drops even with major $ in improvements? As my experienced realtor told us, "Even rich people don't want to pay high taxes".

epic lulz  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:20 PM

@tjk, I know several families who are on the verge of foreclosure due to one of their wage earners being laid off in the bad economy. They are struggling to keep their homes. An extra $500/yr may indeed push them over the brink.

Extreme Early Voting  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:19 PM

I chose extreme early voting---voting with my feet---when news of the impending referendum came out last year. But I was very fortunate to not be tied down like so many other residents. I thought this time the masses who pay property taxes would rise up, but that didn't happen. And, the bitter divide will likely be a lasting feature of the Village going forward, even if extraordinary efforts are made to bring the community together. My feeling was this would be bad however it turned out.

Who Cares My Name Im Out   

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:16 PM

Less money in our pockets for the gang bangers to steal from us, many of which probably go to the schools here.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:15 PM

RE Future Resident: It says alot about what D97's 100K salaries have (or haven't) done for OP property values when a teacher from Berwyn, where avg elem teacher salaries are 40% lower than OP, is home shopping here. By all means, Future Resident, please take your pick of the three empty homes on my block.

OP voter  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:13 PM

Interesting comments. Boy some of you really know how to put down those that are struggling. I wish someone in the real estate market in this area would comment on what they are hearing from potential buyers about taxes here? Think we are taxing this town out of the affordable market?

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:12 PM

@Past Resident (and all others making the ridiculous argument that this referendum mand their house more or less valuable): My property taxes went up $456 as a result solely of this referendum (I realize they will go up more for other things). To imply that's the tipping point that will make my house harder to sell, or keep people out of Oak Park is laughable. Oak Park has many problems-lack of sustainable businesses being one as you point out. But don't overstate the effects of the referendum.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:06 PM

Well said tjk. I'm in full agreement.

Who Cares My Name Im Out  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:05 PM

Hey Future Res of OP you can purchase my house its real close to the low income housing development too. I am out of here peace the F out.

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:05 PM

The rhetoric on both sides has been very juvenile at times. Yes voters should not "be ashamed of themselves," just as No voters should not be marginalized. I voted Yes, but I have tremendous respect for the No voters and hope that they keep their level of enthusiasm. Hold D97 accountable for the money I just voted to give them, and don't let the district view this as a mandate to spend freely. Better yet, run for the board. Kind of a travesty that all 4 positions ran unopposed.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:03 PM

Perhaps on the next referendum ballot (just a few years away, I'm sure), we can get the language to be clear and understandable, and more choices can be provided. Like: NO, HELL NO, NO because I hate you all, YES, YES but with serious reservations, YES but I don't know why, and HAPPILY YES! Just a suggestion.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:59 PM

Congratulations to the winners and the losers. The D97 Referendum was a great and unusual display of OP participatory government. We need to realize that all those who worked, talked, posted, scream, cried, and smiled contributed to making OP a better place to live by simply caring.

Past Resident of OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:59 PM

@ Future Resident, I once said "Gee Honey, I know those taxes are high, but heck it's a great place to live - if we get the house we just won't eat out at any of the restaurants (sorry Pasta Shop), I'll shop the yard sales (sorry retailers) and we can get our books at the library (sorry Barbara's)." After 10 yrs in a town that can't say no to ANY increase, like many businesses, we are now gone too. I am thankful we sold before this hike, as I know the nightmare of selling in OP.

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:57 PM

Continuing my note below...I've spoken with no one who voted for this with unmitigated enthusiasm. This column has been a mouthpiece for the yes side, and that's fine, but it's not objective reporting, it's editorialism. I have tremendous respect for no voters and this column marginalizes how many people (again, like me) voted yes with a sense that the district was holding a gun to our head. I mentioned yesterday that with two kids about to enter Mann, I didn't want to dare them to shoot.

tjk from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:53 PM

@Dan - I agree with the criticisms of the article and the headline (and I voted Yes). It's a false presumption to say that OP voters have spoken concerning their schools. OP voters, in general, approved a referendum. However there were over 5,000 No votes. Moreover, so many yes voters were conflicted. Good reporting would have included exit polls, that interviewed voters, like me, that voted yes but saw plenty of merit in voting no.

Disappointed from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:47 PM

I wouldn't say easy victory -- and frankly that is somewhat offensive to those that took the time to come out to vote NO. As a business owner - we spent the last 3 years doing everything to cut costs to protect employees jobs. I sure wish I could just flip a switch and increase revenues too - only in the public sector. Anyone that voted YES should be ashamed of themselves...

epic lulz  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:43 PM

@Dan Haley, with all due respect, what the 45/55 outcome shows is that the community is deeply divided over the issue, and is likely to remain so. 10% is not a landslide in a binary question like this. The YES side won, but unless the concerns of the NO side are taken into account by D97 going forward, you're going to have 45% of the people remaining really pissed off.

David W Ristau from Lahaina, Maui, HI  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:43 PM

Note to Vince Bray: I'm not letting the door hit me on the way out...all the way to River Forest. I doubt you were around 1991-95 when I served on OPRF board. Same issue now as then: irresponsible parents letting their kids slide by and blaming the schools. Need money to fix the "problems" 20 years later 97 board used the fine arts as hostage for money---again. When all else fails, hold the kids hostage. Responsible boardmanship? I think not.

Interesting from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:32 PM

@Future Resident. So, you are a teacher in Berwyn and fully support higher taxes for education? I'm shocked! What's wrong with your moving to where you teach? Don't like the "diversity" there or FP? I get that you have a guaranteed job for life - which enables you to retire with a very generous pension at age 57, unlike most of us, but do YOU get the exalted status of this today? Yes, you'll fit right in to the "new" Oak Park - which will be even better after getting rid of us "evil" NO voters!

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:28 PM

Dear Ms. Wyman, Good catch on the vote numbers. When Terry Dean wrote the story on deadline Tuesday night we did not have final numbers. The story has now been reedited to include those numbers, including that the No votes finished over the 5,000 mark. The only school referendum vote that failed in my memory was at OPRF, maybe 10-12 years ago. They made a new (less expensive) plan and came back and won a year later. We'll see how readily we can get the comparative data on past votes. Thanks.

About the Future Residents of Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:28 PM

We now have the profile of the future residents of Oak Park: Well-paying jobs, that allow for a second job in the off months; secure, protected jobs with built-in escalotors, great retirement and health benefits.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:24 PM

I don't think many of us who are waiting for an uptick in the housing market to escape were thinking of moving to Berwyn or Forest Park. Think North Shore or similar villages. We'd be happy to pay higher taxes if they were in line with overall value. In Oak Park, they are not.

Future Resident of OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:17 PM

For all those thinking the teachers in District 97 are so well off. If you check champion new website the teacher salary database clearly shows that the only teachers making 6 figures are ones with 30 or more years experience and much high education.

Future Resident of OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:04 PM

I am glad to see this pass.Its good to know that the community I am moving into cares about its schools.Yes improvement is needed.But what other communities that have the diversity as OP do as well as OP.Sure other schools are great but are they as diverse.Sure other school are diverse but are they as good of schools.This is why I am moving into OP and paying high taxes on my house.I live in FP and teach in Berwyn trust me the taxes are worth it.If you are unhappy residents, good luck and bye.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:52 AM

With all respect: "Oak Park property owners have spoken concerning their schools, and decisively" is presumption. Perhaps more accurate would be "Oak Park parents respond to D97 ransom demand, Oak Park property owners apathetic". Why not mention turnout, as is standard and relevant for an election story? Because it contradicts your biased lead line. Deadline or not, the story really reads as if written before the voting even started and the actual numbers were an afterthought.

Katherine Wyman from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:48 AM

Mr. Haley: Fair enough, but I'd still urge editing the "just over 4,000" approximation & replacing with exact numbers. Story idea: I bet many readers, myself included, would be interested in historical data on past school (and other) OP referendums (referenda?): numbers of yes/no votes, numbers of registered voters, etc. A comparative analysis with most recent election could make for interesting discussion.

Katherine Wyman from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:40 AM

@ Prefer Not: It's my understanding that 72% of the teachers voted for the salary freeze, and that they received concessions from the school bd in return (in addition to the less quantifiable benefit of enabling the Yes campaign to tout their willingness to sacrifice the raises). I find the idea of the union "selling out" the teachers laughable. Attendance at Bd meetings might help assure doubters that (appearances aside) Bd actually has been working hard to scale back admin costs in recent yrs.

V from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:37 AM

@Alan Here you go http://www.patriotdepot.com/products/Born-Free-Taxed-to-Death-Bumper-Sticker-5-Pack.html You can also distribute the other 4 to those who share your views. BTW, it took me less than a minute and one Google request.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:29 AM

Don't want to sound defensive here but by most measures winning a vote by 10 percentage points would be considered a landslide. Hence the "Easy win" headline. The headline is not an editorial judgment, it is a news judgment made on very pressured deadlines to fit a very fixed space. I think it is an OK headline (and, yes, I wrote it). I know for certain it is not some sort of backhanded slam at referendum opponents.

Alan from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:28 AM

Does anyone know where I can get a "Born Free Taxed To Death" bumper sticker??

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:26 AM

First, the good news - it's over! The bad news? The pounding of the middle class continues unabated in IL. Isn't it interesting that upper-class Wilmette easily passed a tax increase (2-1), but otherwise only OP did? More thoughts? Simple - just read what J. Hubbuch wrote at 10:34. Irving "needs" an "outdoor learning environment?" D97 "needs" M-C Dept? Marion "needs" more blue bricks? OP "needs" 2 municipal pools and ice rink? OPRF "needs" $80M surplus? OP has a lot of empty homes right now.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:21 AM

The WJ headlines on the ref certainly suggest that re-training in objective journalism and journalistic ethics might be in order, but in the end, we have to make our own decisions about what read. Still, given the economy and Oak Park's dismal housing picture, the victory celebration seems inappropriate. But maybe the WJ was trying make that point with the photos. Who knows. Again, as with so many Oak Park institutions, the buyer really must beware.

Taxes and Housing Prices  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:05 AM

Check out this zillow graph of the housing price trend in Oak Park since 2006. http://www.zillow.com/local-info/IL-Oak-Park-home-value/r_6268/ The steady downward trend is very depressing. Do you think this tax increase is going to steady this rapid drop? Are the schools really getting better with all this money being sapped from our declining paychecks, or are we not addressing the root cause of waste and inefficiency? I've talked to a growing number of families who would love to move to Oak Park but just don't want to pay the taxes. More disturbing, I know young families who happily rent in Oak Park now but are shopping for new homes in more tax friendly suburbs. And most disturbing, people like me who are being taxed out of Oak Park but must deal with the reality of this shrinking demand for my overtaxed asset.

Prefer Not  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:04 AM

What a shame the teachers union sold out the teachers, voting for a freeze in advance. What they should have been doing is pointing out LOUDLY the waste and duplication in the administration, with all of the Collins Assistant Superintendent holdovers. SHAME

Oak Park Parent  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:48 AM

I agree with Ms. Wyman, this was far from a slam-dunk, and I am not surprised that once again the WJ gets it wrong with its attempts to make headlines controversial. I supported the referendum but am happy for questions the No side is bringing up. By this I don't mean the disinformation about overpaid teachers and talentless BRAVO kids, and talking our schools down. But the fact that we need work smarter and harder to keep our schools great and our community strong.

Katherine Wyman from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:42 AM

I'm happy about the outcome, but it's not a black & white issue. Both sides have valid points in this debate & must try to listen to (not vilify) each other going forward. The many "no" votes mean the Board must continue its vigilance on spending control going forward. WJ does us a disservice with inaccurate reporting: How is approx. 5,000 "no" votes "just over 4,000"? This wasn't a slam-dunk, and painting it that way is short-sighted at best, & calls Journal's credibility into question.

Money Is Not Always the Answer  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:38 AM

The whole public/private school subject seems to inflame. Our family was evenly divided between public and private educations, it always amazed me how much the nuns did with little. Our private school class could match any public school class in academic accomplishment & professional achievement. The problems were not greater than what we heard from the public school students. Oak Parkers always seem to be held hostage by the emotional blackmail of many who think money will fix it all. It won't.

John Hubbuch from New Albany  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:34 AM

Although I supported the referendum,I was surprised it passed on the first time. The frustration and anger of people who feel they are being forced out of the community they love is well documented here.You have to feel that there is a tipping point not too far in the future when the majority will no longer support these referenda. If I were an oak Park taxing authority I would get ahead of the curve and begin doing more or as much with less or the same before the taxpayers do it for you.

D200 gets a pass? from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:32 AM

I find it fascinating that D97 gets all of the focus and anger when D200 is sitting on $80 million and approved a teacher's contract that is significantly more generous than D97. D97 at least tied a teacher's base increase to CPI. D200 has guaranteed 5% plus increases in each year of the contract. Why is no one focusing on the more poorly managed district?

Can't afford it  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:32 AM

Two words: strategic default. What will happen to property values then?

Charlie K from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:27 AM

I thought that I was in the norm that when I moved to OP, I should expect higher taxes for better schools - and do what I can to support them. Otherwise, there are much nicer properties in Forest Park, Berwyn and Cicero for much less money and much less taxes. For those leaving OP over this vote (to stay in the area, I assume you are going to a surrounding burb), please post again upon arrival to let us know how those schools perform.

Easy Victory ??? from oak park Illinois   

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:26 AM

Noel..I agree. The headline "Easy Victory" is a little insulting to anyone that made the effort to get out and vote. Whether you voted yes or no....the outcome was not "easy" for anyone. Let's continue to keep pressure on all the taxing bodies to remember the rights of the taxpayers when making spending decisions. Let's not make it "easy" on them.

Puzzled from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:26 AM

How do other school districts spend a fraction of what Oak Park spends, yet have much better schools?

Roberta Harris from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:25 AM

Just FYI, for those who complain that they have to sell and leave OP now: the schools are the reason that property values are still relatively high. My husband and I bought here last year because of the schools. If you stop investing in schools, watch your property values plummet! Lots of us with kids will go wherever the good schools are, and you'll be left with your lower taxes and upsidedown mortgages.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:04 AM

The board expected only about 6,000 voters to show up IN TOTAL. They figured they can get 5000 votes from parents, making the tax increase was a slam dunk. The narrow victory is a message to the board, Oak Park taxpayers care about unaccountable spending & they will be vigilant going forward. We will be there for EVERY board meeting asking questions about EVERY $ spent. Get those staffers ready, because we are going to as for data, more data & even more data to shine more light on D97 spending

short sighted?  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:00 AM

Aside from not knowing with certainty what the referendum will cost until the bill arrives, this blog focuses on the cost of the referendum. By my count, there are 15 taxing entities on our property tax bill. Does anyone think that other 14 will just hold steady? And then there is the unprecedented state crisis, then the federal financial crisis. Does everyone recall the cost of the 'stretch plan' to tear down, re-build/expand Ridgeland Commons? I think the price tag was $120 million...

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:59 AM

Everyone who Voted NO should be proud. Lets get some facts straight. It was NOT an easy win. The NO side had over 5,000 votes. The margin victory was less than 10%, less than 1000 votes. Less than 20% of the voters come out in a off yr election. We had over 30% come out. The YES side only had 6,000 votes. If you take out the roughly 5,000 votes from parents, they were only able to get 1,000 additional voters, considering they had 100s of active supporters & spend between $10K-$20K.

sam s.  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:53 AM

The "party" last night was to thank all of the hardworking YES supporters. Why is that inappropriate?

B from OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:49 AM

Bashing staff/unions is wrong!Big salaries at top, huge legal fees to keep sp ed kids down or out of district& mega waste is wrong. All are GIFTED.Stop gifted clique.Bullies learn from parents. Enhance gifted at home like sp ed kids must be to get needs met though families are financially strained and grieving for many sp ed kids injured by school mandated vaccine.Celebrate with alcohol? What happened to drugs in schools concern? % of kids in expensive programs like CAST, sports-VERY small.

now departed  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:48 AM

To Want to leave: Williamson County (Nashville area)in the rolling hills of Tennessee. BTW, the winter was immeasurably better than Chicago's and the music is unbelievable. Cosmo, and the unemployment rate in Brentwood is 6.x% Great healthcare, airlift and more.

Dave from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:38 AM

Those who supported this need to tell me who are the people willing to buy into this increase? Look at any income numbers. Are the numbers of people who can pay these taxes incresing? Who are the well off able to buy your old house even if they wanted to buy it? Add this to the VMA goal to bring more and more homeless into town, the people willing to be here are disappearing. Many who bought a long time ago have room to spare. Those who bought in the last 10 years are totally screwed.

Want to leave  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:33 AM

now departed-Where, may I ask, have you moved to?

Voted No Also  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:29 AM

@Jon from op-LoL. I just had a conversation w/my wife this morning about putting our house on the market. Unfortunately, we would barely break even, so we will probably have to stay. I am planning on getting more involved though. Maybe a task force of some kind should be created to hold the board and D97 accountable.

now departed  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:27 AM

It doesn't seem right that there are victory parties over a referendum. Referendums should require a super majority to pass, too. For anyone who plans to leave, plan ahead for the Oak Park transfer stamps (what we call the "leaving tax"). This hit on the way out of town was $4,916 ---much, much more than the cost of the moving van! Now, very good public schools with property tax bills of like $2,500 (3,000 sq. ft) and did I mention no state income tax? All within a day's drive of Chicago.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:26 AM

I can't believe how many Yes comments act like the total tax bill is now $300. The problem is how high it already is and the way it has been rising way faster than inflation for ten years. Manage our money, D97; don't call us greedy because we are broke.

OP Voter from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:22 AM

Some keep saying only $300.00 increase. That is not what this is going to cost.

Jon from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:14 AM

@WJ Staff Since you supported the school tax increase, I have a favor to ask. Would you be willing to feature my home in the real estate section of your paper. I can't afford to pay for one of your "big" home profiles. Could you comp me? I really need to get out of this town. Expenses are skyrocketing. I don't have money for these high taxes.

Voted NO  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:10 AM

Was that ginger ale in Peter T's glass as he celebrated higher taxes?? What a great role model for our community and our kids. I just hope I get to see him celebrate higher achievement - last year 4 of our schools didn't make AYP.

@A Mile in my Shoes from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:10 AM

That's why your kids need a good education. So they won't be underemployed and avoid hot dogs for their children. As for me, I'd rather pay 300 dollars tax increase than 20 grand a year for a private school.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:58 AM

How gracious in victory.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:55 AM

Again. To everyone here. Its great getting your voice out there on here, but how far does that go? GET INVOLVED. I hope every single one of you who is so unhappy about the result were involved in the "No" campaign. If not, use this as a lesson. Furthermore, we all need to Keep the Schools accountable, that means getting involved and making you voice heard to those who make the decisions.

OP tax payer/D97 parent (JRussell)  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:54 AM

I am really sad to see what sore winners the Yes voters are on this board. I voted yes, albeit reluctantly. Now all our taxing bodies, including D97 now MUST demonstrate return on the significant investment entrusted to them. The village must improve the business climate, D200 would do well to back away from the trough, the Parks and Library must be prudent, and D97 MUST start bringing innovation to eduction. All public unions should be taught that performance & market forces matter.

Disappointed and disgusted  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:44 AM

@kK-How on earth do you know that I haven't attended bd mtgs and have been involved? Why are you going personal? You WON!! For your information, I have been to PLENTY bd meetings, have made PLENTY of bd comments and am VERY involved with my kids' education. Also, yeah, Chicagoans are just beating down the doors to move here. We would sell, but our property is now worth to nothing as Catch 22 mentioned.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:41 AM

Hmm, wonder why those thousands of Oak Park wannabees seem so reluctant to buy homes here. Let's hope the WJ exercises at least a minimum of objectivity and closely follow what the District actually does with their floods of new money. And to those of you who didn't vote but are alarmed at these new fees-an important civic lesson. You can't change anything by staying home.

Sick of D97 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:36 AM

K-From Oak Park. Well, thank you for your response. I do not walk in your shoes and you do not walk in mine. So, please do not assume I do not give a d.... about this town. Just trying to see tax dollars spent wisely. Been here since 1964. Have a nice day.

Eat The Rich from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:33 AM

It's so interesting that a town as "progressive" as Oak Park does everything it can to prevent middle class families from being able to afford a house here....

Catch 22 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:30 AM

I'm trying to sell my home to avoid paying high taxes. But I can't sell my home becasuse the taxes are too high. What should I do? Should I cut my losses and turn the place over to the bank?

K - from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:29 AM

Disapointed... Gino beat me to it. If you have such a problem with how District 97 is being managed, why don't you running for the school board? Or at least attend the freaking meetings every once in a while. Most wasteful spending at D97 results from a general lack of balls to say "I don't think that's a good idea." Like anything else, you can either spend TIME or spend MONEY; if you can't put in the time to TIME to help your school district, then you're gonna have to cough up the MONEY.

K- from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:22 AM

Cry me a river, Sick. I was born and raised in Oak Park, I've lived in Chicago, I've lived in Berwyn, I've lived in Forest Park, I've lived in Maywood. I worked my butt off to get back into this town and I'm working twice as hard to STAY here. Oak Park is my home: if you don't care enough about your community to help take care of it, then leave. There THOUSANDS of people in Chicagoland who would kill to live here.

Sick of D97 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:20 AM

@disappointed- Agree with your point. I would not have minded the increase if I thought we were getting better accountability from this district. For what we are paying per student to educate, I do not feel we are getting the results back. Especially in the middle schools. My kids had great start at Longfellow, went down hill at Julian.

OP Voter  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:19 AM

It's good to see another balance report from the WJ & Terry Dean. OPers should cancel their subs with this rag. An "easy win" - 9/20 people voted agianst this, with the might of Chris Jasculca, (son of Blago/Daley PR Machine Rick Jasculca) and Jassen Stokosch. Predictions: 1) More Ipads for teachers 2) the SEIU/OPTA pay raises are back on the table, (haha - they bought the 1 year deal!) 3) Jassen gets 'appointed' to a position for this hardwork and to reclaim some tax dollars on his OP home

Gino S.  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:15 AM

To everyone who seems to think the D.97 is mis-managed, I will again point out that each seat up for the school board this election was uncontested. Uncontested! You think you can do a better job? Then get involved. Otherwise, show some respect for those who volunteer a not-insignificant amount of their time to help manage our schools.

Disappointed and disgusted  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:05 AM

I also hate how Peter T. implies that a vote against the ref was unsupportive of OP schools. No, we just think the district needs to do a better job of balancing their budget and at least for me, didn't buy unto the scare tactics.

Disappointed and disgusted  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 7:54 AM

@why celebrate-I said the same thing a couple of days ago when the part was announced re bd members celebrating a tax increase and I has called gullible-funny to see the bd, principals and district employees whopping it up while a lot of us have an addtional burdened placed on us. I think it is highly inappropriate. Is it true that the teachers will get an additional 5% raise since ref passed?

Sick of D97 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 7:51 AM

@K from Oak Park, Also your comment of only $300.00? What kind of Math are you doing? We will be lucky if its only $300. You did not figure in the State Multiplier in the tax bill. Take a look when you get it.

Sick of D97 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 7:46 AM

@K-Oak Park. Some of us are trying to make ends meet. It is very hard when you have a college degree, lost your job, trying to find one, never thought this would happen, and being responsible by paying your bills. Do not feel our kids are getting what we are paying for! Its tough out here! Thanks for your kind words!

why celebrate  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 7:42 AM

does it makes sense to see pictures of board members celebrating w/a cocktail that we are INCREASING TAXES????

Barbara from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 7:30 AM

Once again, trust fund babies and financial elite care nothing about those financially struggling who allow your comfy luxurious life to be so "special" by working so hard and actually paying taxes you feel are our responsibility while you get off the hook because you can hide your assets.Selfish!

Debbie Mercer from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 7:12 AM

The rhetoric in these comments is upsetting. I wish we could do what President Obama suggests: disagree without being disagreeable.

Oak Park mom voted yes  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 7:07 AM

I'm so pleased with the results of this election and the vote of confidence and investment in our community and our future. And thrilled that I can give my concerned children good news this morning! Like everyone else I'm concerned about education funding in Illinois and the high prop. taxes. We have a great community and schools here, but in a state whose education funding is 49th of 50 in the nation. State and Federal priorities need to shift. All kids deserve a great educational start.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 7:04 AM

Newsflash, that post made me smile for the first time since I started peeking into oakpark.com. I am sure the sing-off would be more entertaining!

Newsflash from OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:50 AM

@OP Resident: You're right. Of course, in this context, only those who vote matter. Sad that we'll never know how 80% of Oak Parkers actually feel. Which is a shame...but the way of the world I suppose. Maybe next time we can have a "sing off" with dial-in voters featuring BRAVO and CAST members!

A Mile in my Shoes from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:44 AM

@working hard: See, I did reassess my spending when I lost my job 2 years ago. But now that my annual property taxes will be higher than my mortgage payments, I get to choose whether I sell my house for a loss and start over, or hunker down here and hope that I won't be under-employed much longer. My kids are tired of ramen noodles and mac n'cheese with hot dogs. My point is...don't try and judge my budget until you really understand it. We will find the money, but it will hurt. A lot.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:42 AM

@Newsflash, 46 percent of Oak Parkers did NOT vote "no" -- 46 percent of the 10K, 11K who voted, voted no. BIG difference!

It's All Relative from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:37 AM

Actually, I hate most things associated with the Tea Party. But, balanced budgets and fiscal constraint are important and I employ them in my own household. That's all...I have nothing else in common with Sarah Palin and her ilk. I suspect the majority of "no" voters feel similarly...and to imply that anyone unthinkingly "fell for their rhetoric" is hilarious coming from Yes voters who have been trumpeting "It's for the children" for two months! Peace. I truly wish D97 a prosperous future.

working hard from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:33 AM

if 300 to 400 dollars break your bank maybe you should reasess how you spend money

Oak Parker  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:25 AM

You might not be a tea partier, but you are falling for their rhetoric. Potato potahto.

Joe from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:23 AM

D97, a so-so school district, their teachers' compansations have improved greatly in the pass. What about their school score card? The truth is that greedy teacher cannot produce smart kids. D97, please prove me wrong!

Newsflash from OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:15 AM

46% of Oak Parkers voted "no"...and they are mostly not "Tea Partiers"....just frustrated taxpayers who believe that the schools could work more efficiently. But, yes, you should be vigilant about the spending of District 97 and all other taxing bodies.

Oak Parker  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:00 AM

As for the turnout being low? From what I hear, it was actually high for an election of this type. When I first asked around, I was told the estimated turnout would be 6-8k, and this was much higher.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 5:52 AM

Joe, apparently your teachers did not teach you well. The issue in colonial America was taxation without representation, not taxation per se. The Constitution itself provides for the levying of taxes. No one can argue that the tax increase just approved is taxation without representation.

Tea Party Fail  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 5:52 AM

I am so very happy. That said, the tea party is in Oak Park, and I am glad this election has highlighted this. If we want to support things that are important, we need to remain vigilant.

Next Up on the Agenda.... from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 5:46 AM

...let's build a housing project on Madison Street and call everyone who doesn't support it or asks any tough questions "a racist"!! HOORAY!

Oak Park Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 5:05 AM


Vince Bray from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:37 AM

David W Ristau CPA - Don't let the door hit you on the butt. Set up in Bellwood, I'm sure you'll love it there. They love guys in loud hawaiian shirts. Are you kidding me? Mahalo mon.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:57 AM

This is enlightening. It seems the tea party IS in Oak Park. Who would have thUnk it. As long as there's buck to be made in Oak Park businesses will come.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:54 AM

AHHHHH, Truth, I will remember the smile on my son's face because he's happy his GTD teacher will be there next year.

Truth from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:42 AM

All of you celebrating the tax hike... remember these times. Enjoy them. In 12 months or so, when foreclosures soar beyond belief here and your homes continue to decline in value, remember the good times you felt tonight. You helped make this happen! Be proud, we're Oak Parkers.

Dylan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:58 AM

Many here seem to be missing the bigger picture. Could there be a need for more accountability? Perhaps - but that is the function of the School Board. If you are dissatisfied with their work, then organize and go to their meetings. Better yet, get involved in a Commission or committee. Secondly,the Feds, and IL to a point, have cut funding over the past decade to Education - someone needs to fill the hole. Go after the Feds who think education is less important than new jet-fighters.

K - from Oak Parkl  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:49 AM

Joe... Sick... Donald... If you're honestly the type of person who'd begrudge your own school district $300 a year just to make ends meet, then by all means, MOVE! Obviously you've got your priorities bass-ackwards and you probably don't belong here anyway. Move to Cicero or Berwyn or something, I hear they've got low property taxes (assuming the Latin Kings don't charge you protection money).

David W Ristau CPA from Lahaina, Maui, HI  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:30 AM

I am thankful that I am moving my Oak Park office OUT of Oak Park. This latest referendum "victory" simply escalates real estate taxes for a school system that is sorely lacking on accountability of its operations and once again used scorched earth scare tactics to motivate a small amount of registered voters to enslave the entire tax base of Oak Park to yet more higher taxes. IMO it's a shame that a so-so school district is capable of garnering such high salaries for average student results.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:22 AM

U should move even further, try Ridgeland Ave and Austin Blvd.


Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:53 PM

Well, maybe you'll just not looking in the right place. U should move further down Lake, try Oak Park Ave.


Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:49 PM

Joe, Yeah, and our founding fathers tried it then realized they couldn't even pay the army or pave roads without taxes. So, America has taxes. Then they decided to use taxes to pay for education.


Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:48 PM

Thank you for your continues vote for tax increase, I cannot find any local store in the Oak Park anymore. The empty lot at Forest and Lake is a new Monument of Oak Park.


Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:39 PM

I thought one of the reasons our forefathers found America is to avoid British Colonial Tax. Do they teach this in Oak Park Public School? If they do, why D97 is in today's Ballot? If they don't, instead of a raise, teaches should take a pay cut!


Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:37 PM

@Joe, sorry,that you feel you must leave. I don't know but I wish u well in your next home. But when you moved here you knew the taxes were high because the baby not born knows that Oak Park has high taxes to pay for the schools. So, to everyone "claiming" they must leave, save money, local stores can supply u with boxes.

Natalie from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:17 PM

well, I guess it's time to push out some spawn. With two properties in Oak Park--one that probably won't sell anytime soon now--and thus two property tax bills, we might as well make use of all the money we're paying to fund this inefficiently managed school system.


Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:12 PM

The teachers are not the ones who should be ashamed! There are very few teachers with six-figure salaries. Please! Stop begrudging our hardworking teachers - they have one of the hardest and most important jobs there is!


Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:08 PM

@Sick, haven't you seen the tshirt, "One Tree, Many Nuts, Oak Park." I saw them at Olive and Well. U should get one.

Joe from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:08 PM

I moved from Chicago to Oak Park. Now, I have to move out of Oak Park to avoid tax hike. Teachers with six-figure salaries shame on you! You are planning where to spend your two plus months vacation. I am trying to make my ends meet. Again, SHAME ON YOU! I heard that you start the party already. I am not paying!!!

Donald Doll from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:06 PM

It is officially time to pack up and leave Oak Park. With the yes vote today, my property taxes are goiong to go up almost $300. Pushing them up to an amount I can no longer afford. I will be leaving as soon as I can sell the house.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:00 PM

Still, turnout was awfully low making it difficult to tell how most Oak Parkers really feel about an increase in our astronomically high property taxes-on top of a big state income tax increase. How will Dist 97 cope with this huge flood of new cash? I'd predict some quick backtracking on those cuts that were supposed to happen regardless of ref results. And some lavish pay increases in the next contract. but we'll see. It's important not to look away, in any case, as election drama subsides

A D97 parent from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 10:53 PM

Thrilled about this result!

35 year resident  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 10:53 PM

Our educational systems need significant structural change at the top, and that should begin with consolidating Oak Park elementary schools, River Forest elementary schools and Oak Park-River Forest High School into a single district with a single set of administrators eliminating two sets of administrative costs. The districts themselves will never suggest this. So this will need to be imposed at the state level. Get rid of this wasteful set of structures, and reduce these costs to taxpayer

Libbey Paul from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 10:42 PM

I am so grateful for the voters who supported this referendum. I also respect the concerns about our high overall taxes. I trust that the D97 board will continue to be vigilant about increasing costs. We need to positively collaborate with the unions to contain cost growth in the next round of contract negotiations, as well as advocate for fundamental education funding reform at the state level. I believe Oak Parkers are capable of leading the way in efficient, world-class education.

Another frustrated taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 10:34 PM

D97: pls do not "break your hand patting yourself on the back" for this "win". A HANDFUL of frustrated Oak Parkers were able to get the message out and get 4000 "no" votes-despite your well-organized campaign of scare tactics. We expect D97 to live within its means. The free pass is over.

Proud (& Prudent)  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 9:38 PM

I'm feeling good about my friends and neighbors tonight. We had the good collective sense not to make short-sighted decisions that undermine everyone's prosperity just to save a few bucks. Sure, sure, we helped the kids but I'm convinced we made a prudent financial decision that will support property values in the village during an uncertain time. Like it or not my home is my biggest, longest-term investment, and I feel relieved tonight that this investment has been protected.

Joan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 9:34 PM

For what you will pay in extra taxes to fund music (and more), this is MUCH LESS than parents will have to pay for private music lessons each year if we don't offer music in grade school. And, if we go that route, our music programs will only be open to the rich kids - this is not what we want, I hope. D97 can cut principals' salaries, limit teacher pay increases to the COL, and this STILL won't close the gap that has been created by waiting 20 years to have an Ed Fund referendum.


Posted: April 5th, 2011 9:24 PM

While I'm not happy with the result I'm encouraged to know that there are many here in the village who are concerned with economic future of our children and OP. Turnout was poor and the price has will be paid, literally. A "yes" victory but they are on record and can now be held to their words. It is important that those of us who comprise the "no" crowd refine our arguement and find encouragement in the vote, in this cummunity, being this close. The glass is half full, let's build on this.

Sick of this school district & town. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 8:52 PM

People in this village are nuts for not making D97 more accountable. For what you are paying in your taxes, you are not receiving in return. I am sick to my stomach and just do not know how I can afford this. Just wait till everyone sees what you will pay for down the road, Federal Gov may shut down Friday, this is just the start!

tina t from oak park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 8:38 PM

i guess moving to Oak Park 10 years ago was a mistake. i spent years fixing up a home that i love, but will be forced to sell because i will be taxed out of it. i can't believe, once again, Oak Park's fiscal irresponsibility lands squarely on homeowners shoulders.

John Abbott from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 8:38 PM

I'm grateful for the outcome here, but also for Oak Parkers having mounted so spirited, high-minded a civic discussion over these issues. That goes for those who publicly led the "No" vote effort as well. Meanwhile, can those of you too cowardly to sign your actual names butt out of this space so that we can have a real conversation? Words barely suffice in describing the unbearable lightness of these anonymous comments.


Posted: April 5th, 2011 8:36 PM

It is going to take a while, because my property taxes are so high, but I am going to be so happy when I finally sell my place and move out of this place. And my days of subscribing to the Journal are over; it has been dishonest both in its coverage and its editorials about this issue.The opposition never had a chance. It is just like the parking issue. Renters have no power here, and property owners who don't have 8 or 10 grand to pay for a larded, underfperforming school system are out of luck

Lifelong Oak Parker from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 8:32 PM

This is great news for the kids and great news for Oak Park. The district needs this, and it's our moral responsibility to give today's kids the same level of education that those of us who grew up here received. I'm glad it's passing---and I don't have kids!!

Joe from Oak Park   

Posted: April 5th, 2011 8:32 PM

Never before have so few caused so much harm to so many. Low voter turnout stinks.

D97 referendum  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 8:28 PM

it's not over till it's over...

Sam from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 8:24 PM

Now how am I gonna pay my property taxes? Too bad I need to move away from Oak Park b/c I can no longer afford to live her.

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