By Terry Dean
A group of Oak Park officials want to save taxpayers money by finding ways for various governing entities to share resources by working more closely together.
The Intergovernmental Committee of Oak Park Village and Township Officials has had four public meetings now, most recently on May 19. The group, comprising elected board members of the various Oak Park taxing bodies, is meant to bring officials together to talk about how to better share services and lessen the tax burden on citizens, said Ray Johnson, a Village of Oak Park trustee who sits on the committee, referred to as IGOV.
Johnson said the genesis of IGOV began during last year's elections, when voters, he said, expressed concern about Oak Park's growing taxes. In addition, the contentious TIF dispute between the village and Oak Park and River Forest High School caused both sides to spend significant taxpayer dollars on a protracted lawsuit, Johnson noted.
Unlike other joint committee groups featuring administrators, IGOV consists of board members from the village, districts 97 and 200, the township, the library and the park district; the lone exception being OP Township Supervisor David Boulanger.
"This is a way for us to get to know each personally but also professionally," Johnson said.
Some examples where one or all of the taxing bodies could partner is in early childhood education and supporting the Collaboration for Early Childhood Education. Another, Johnson said, is the Irving schoolyard project, currently being spearheaded by the PTO of Irving School in D97. IGOV has looked at some long-term projects, such as the scarce availability of swimming pool facilities in Oak Park, as well as some short- to mid-range ideas, such as taxing bodies sharing space.
River Forest officials were not invited to join IGOV, Johnson said, because the committee wants to initially bring together Oak Park officials, but that likely could change in the future, he noted.
IGOV is not so much a brainstorming group, Johnson added, but a working committee exploring realistic ideas. The committee is not a voting group, however.
"Anything we come up with has to go back to the specific boards for review and discussion," Johnson said.
Terry Finnegan, president of the D200 school board, believes it makes good sense to find ways to share resources.
"It's just nice that we're beyond the TIF stuff and can now pull together. It's just keeping communication open and better," he said.