OPRF pool and fitness center referendum drowns

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

See a recap of our liveblog coverage here.

Also on the ballot Tuesday night was an advisory referendum on whether Oak Park and River Forest High School should use some of its reserves to build a pool/fitness center for the entire community. Advisory referenda are non-binding and the high school is not required under law to follow it. The measure was defeated, 52 to 48 percent.

The ballot question asked voters if the District 200 board should spend a portion of its cash and investments — which exceeds upwards of $100 million — to fund a year-round public facility.

The advisory referendum was spearheaded by River Forest resident Barb Langer, who was also a candidate in the D200 school board race. The evening proved a double-loss for Langer, who received roughly 4 percent of the vote.

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L from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 9:18 PM

If this thing had passed, I would have created a referendum to rename Oak Park to Idiot Park

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 5:25 PM

Speedway - WOW! Thank you for the info. Not that I need another reason to vote "no" when they cry poor and need a tax hike in a couple years. "Do it for the children"..

Speedway from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 4:10 PM

D200 is already planning on how to spend the surplus and its not on fully funding the pensions. D200 is planning on re-arranging and adding to the HS in response to the Ehler report. They already have two architectural plans for it. This was leaked to the WJ a couple of weeks ago. One of the D200 board incumbents stated that it was not suppose to have been shown to the public. How's that for transparency.

Speedway from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 4:03 PM

@OP Rez - I hear you and initially agreed with you. I am upset with OPRFHS over the voted referendum and what was actually taxed (a lot more). The yearly unneeded levies over and beyond our base tax to D200 has caused this huge surplus. I for one did not agree to fund this surplus for education or any-thing else. I also felt that the D200 should be sacrosanct for only HS activities, yet the park district is using the facilities this year. So why not a pool.

M. Phelps  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 2:59 PM

OP Rez, where were you OPRF was razing an entire block of taxable commerical property full of viable businesses to build a LaCrosse field?

OP Rez  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 1:32 PM

Well, call me crazy but at least early childhood has to do with education. A pool? Well, there's certainly value in it but education? Nah.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 10:12 AM

Priority #1 with the OPRF surplus should paying, in full, the pension deficit. This is why we taxpayers pay tax - to fund the school and pay for school-related costs. Not a pool and not early childhood. I believe that an addendeum to our next ballot event should say "Are you in favor of using a portion of the OPRF cash surplus to reduce the current pnsion liability to $0 and to make sure it is fully funded going forward?". The OPRF board doesn't care to see how big a margin that would pass by.


Posted: April 12th, 2013 9:57 AM

So if you are opposed to D200 using its massive fund balance to pay for an aquatic center, how do you feel about D200 (HIGH SCHOOL) funding an early childhood program? If you are willing to spend high school money (in breach of fiduciary duty) outside the scope their mandate, it seems that anything is fair game.


Posted: April 12th, 2013 9:32 AM

Done, I understand where you're coming from. But plenty of communities run both indoor & outdoor pools. If Oak Brook can do it so can we. And, yes, people swim indoors in July...most outdoor pools have very early lap swimming times because most of the peaks hours are dedicated to people who want to splash around, not swim for exercise. An indoor pool helps reduce the conflict of all the various groups wanting time. It's something a town our size should have down the road.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 8:52 AM

And after you buy the membership for the OPRF pool so you can swim indoors in February, you'll buy the Park District pool pass because who is going to swim indoors in July? So you now have built one pool for OPRF, one pool for the park district, bought two pool passes, and are looking at a huge increase in taxes once we start paying for the pools' construction, and probably a hike in pool passes also to pay for the pools. I bet they aren't $50 per once Ridgeland is done.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 8:48 AM

Seriously? A year-round pool for the residents built by OPRF which has more money than they need? After the pool would have been built, there would be membership fees to get a pool pass so you not only would have built the pool with your tax dollars, but then you would spend after-tax dollars to be a member of the pool, just like the park district. A show of hands who thinks that all you would have to do is show your drivers license at the entrance and you would then be let in for free?

M. Phelps  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 1:23 PM

I agree the headline distorts, and suspect it reflects bias more than cuteness. I've learned that these intergovernmental agreements are so often an excuse to fleece citizens by obscure means (like having OP permit parkers subsidize free parking for our $100K teachers at OPRF) but as a swimmer I supported this one. Might as well get my piece of the intergovernmental shell game. Thanks to Ms. Langer for her committed effort.

Al from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 12:43 PM

Agree the headline writers are getting a little too cute here. 48-52 is darn close and clearly reflects a sharply divided populace and a close-call issue. Credibility in local coverage is hard to come by already, don't be risking it just for a cheeky headline.


Posted: April 10th, 2013 11:37 AM

Much like the other collaborations going on between taxing bodies, I don't think the idea here was totally off base about sharing the facility. Costs could be shared too. In an ideal world, all the constituent groups--seniors, the high school, low income residents who need fitness opportunities, etc--would all come together to build & maintain then everybody shares the time. The Park Dist is using the HS while Ridgeland is closed. I think everybody can cooperate to get this done.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 11:36 AM

Tim Ryan - I, for one, voted for the pool referendum because I saw it has a added services for both OP and RF that would add value -- property value. It's 2013 and whether the economy has recovered or is just lingering (forever?), it is time for both communities to begin seeing enhancements like the pool as assets; not wasteful spending.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 11:17 AM

Again, I am not against the idea of a year-round pool necessarily (although the cost would probably be outrageous) but I think it's a park district issue, not OPRF. I would never feel we should take money from any school district for this type of "wish" item (it's not a needed item).


Posted: April 10th, 2013 10:57 AM

Something people are forgetting is that in the end a pool would be a moneymaker for whoever decides to build it. Oak Brook charges over $200 per year plus a $100 enrollment fee for an aquatics membership. We pay $100 per month (cheaper than FFC) to use the Loyola pool. Not having a facility is basically OP's way of saying "we'd rather you spend your money elsewhere." I'd rather it stay in OP & help generate revenue.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:56 AM

I voted against it for quite a few of the reasons listed here. The money collected was for OPRF and whether we are happy about their fund balance, IMHO, the funds should be for OPRF. I agree that the park district should tackle the year-round pool or as someone else said, FFC, the Y, various places have indoor pools if someone cares to join.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:47 AM

Trying to find a little much needed levity....when I read it my English accent pops into my head..."You are a gadfly sir!" :) Very cool Mr. Ryan!

Timothy Ryan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:43 AM

Ms. O'Shea, glad to amuse. The word fits in OP, because there are a few who fit the Webster's definition..."a person who annoys especially by persistent criticism"....the definition leaves out the fact that OP gadflys are usually badly uniformed, & very intolerant.

Scott McMillan from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:39 AM

I'm very happy this was defeated. Want a year-round pool to swim in? Join a fitness facility that has an indoor pool and stop dreaming up creative ways to use tax dollars. That money should be used for its intended purpose or returned to the taxpayers--not used to fund someone's pet project. I, too, like to swim in the winter, but I would never consider asking the community to subsidize that activity.

Mark Wolfe from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:39 AM

Gabrielle, what are you talking about re Ridgeland? Where have you been the past 8 years that RC planning has been discussed, openly and often?? And to those who chose not to listen, OPRF & the PD looked long & hard at an indoor pool complex along with expanded fields, but at a cost of $ 150-180 million decided wisely that we can't afford it. Plus no one would allow the closing of Scoville Ave between Lake & the L tracks. OPRF does need to update its pools, but within its current walls.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:36 AM

I never heard the word "gadfly" used in normal conversation before coming to Oak Park. Only read it in historical novels about the 20s. Used so often here! It amuses me.

Timothy Ryan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:31 AM

OP Rez, you got your answer at the ballot box. It's not a wise use of funds. This initiative came from a single issue gadfly from RF (no offense to all of RF) who wanted OP to build her a pool. I guess FFC isn't good enough for her. Much of the yes vote here was an "either/or" attempt to use the reserve for something.

Duane from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:29 AM

I voted against this referendum. The park district currently owns two pools that are only open three months out of the year which is a ridiculous use of funding. If you want an enclosed pool this needs to be addressed to the park district and the decision not to enclose the Ridgeland Commons pool with all the new amenities that will come with the new facility.

buckethead from oak park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:26 AM

I wouldn't say that the pool vote 'drowned' as the article states. You can skew the numbers anyway that you want. From my POV, it looks as if almost half of the voters like the idea of a community indoor natatorium/fitness center that can be shared by the high school and taxpayers. From the rest of the comments, it seems as if people didnt know about the vote. If they were educated on the schools needs, that 4% can easily be swayed. OPRF is a dinosaur that needs an indoor athleitic overhaul.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 8:49 AM

Can somebody explain to me why a pool for the village is a wise way to use the fund balance at OPRF which certainly has a lot of needs for its students?

So why not a pool?  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 8:44 AM

I am with you OPRFDad. It's not like we were voting "give us the money back" vs. Pool. If they are going to keep our money, we may as well get something for it.


Posted: April 10th, 2013 8:33 AM

I voted yes for this, not because I think it's necessarily a good idea, but I saw it as a way to attack a completely unnecessary fund reserve. It represents almost two years operating expenses. It's also conditioning Oak Parkers to NOT object to shifting the pension obligation locally.

Tired of Taxes from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 8:15 AM

That fund balance could look a lot smaller if state pension reform includes a push-back to local taxing bodies. Better to do a slow burn on the balance and avoid the next referendum for a long time.


Posted: April 10th, 2013 7:34 AM

Wow, that's a closer vote than I ever imagined...hopefully, it sends a message to all our local officials that there is a need and interest for a year-round public pool in the village. It's something we're missing and needs to happen sooner rather than later. Maybe just not using D-200 funds perhaps? Let's get it done, Park District!

OPRF Parent  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 5:57 AM

Bill, I couldn't agree more!

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 3:37 AM

Well, I finally did cave to the pool idea, so I'm disappointed that it didn't win. However, I am surprised it lost by such a narrow margin. Well, if there is to be no open pool. Then I WANT MY MONEY BACK!!!

OPRF Mom  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 10:36 PM

I'm glad this was defeated. For those thinking the school's fund is too high, I recommend you do your homework so that you understand how school financing works, what the state laws are, and why the fund exists to begin with. Those who grouse about this issue are showing that they don't really understand the issues. And after the 5:30-7:30am swim/water polo team practices, 8-3 p.e. classes, 3:15-5:30 or as late as 8:00 swim/water polo practices/meets, there's not much time for public swim!!

Gabrielle from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 10:33 PM

I felt blindsided stepping into the voting booth. No way should Oak Park have access to money for a fitness center. Not after the way it had handled the Ridgeland Park Overhaul

Bill, an Oak Parker since '57 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 10:30 PM

How about using some of this money to educate our high school students so that they all can excell and compete in the world after they graduate. Let's not just help the best get ahead, let's help all students to do their best

Adult Swim  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 10:23 PM

So raise taxes and build an unnecessarily high reserve. Then say, "Hmmm...what should we do with all this extra cash lying around...pool anyone?!?!" Is that how we manage our funds now?

Long Time Oak Parker from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 10:14 PM

I had not heard of this idea until I stepped into the voting booth. I love this idea! I'm a senior citizen and we need an aquatics program here! Please!

Sam from OP  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 10:07 PM

The votes are in.....now put this idea to bed. It was spearheaded by special interest groups.

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