Stop whining about Oak Park's taxes

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

Earlier this month Oak Park was named one of the Top 10 Best Towns for Families by Family Circle magazine. Like the Best Cheeseburger in Chicago or The Fattest City in America (always somewhere in the South) these awards are either entirely subjective or based on cherry-picked metrics that are easy to manipulate. No one takes them seriously.

Except certain Oak Parkers. The posted responses to the reported story were largely negative with lots of serious bellyaching about Oak Park's high property taxes. Maybe it's the heat of a brutal summer, but I've had enough of pissing and moaning about these taxes.

Oak Park's taxes are high, but they're not too high. To be clear, I don't know much about commercial property taxes. It wouldn't surprise me if the number of vacant business sites in town is in part a result of high taxes. But as for residential taxes, let's take a look at whether they are too high. One of the big reasons our taxes are high is that we always vote for referenda — the high school, elementary schools, parks and library have all passed referenda in the last 10 years or so. I suspect The Mosquito Abatement District could get an increase if it only asked. For those of you who aren't tax savvy, successful referenda raise your taxes. If you don't believe me, ask Ali ElSaffar, our assessor. So you can't really say your taxes are too high if a majority of residents keep voting to make them higher.

There's another reason why our taxes are high. We live next to … I don't know how to put this … well, a ghetto. Our crime is higher than some places. So we have to have more and better cops than some places. This vigilance resulting from our geography requires more money to be spent for code and traffic enforcement, business development and other good stuff. And then we have to educate kids from across the race and income spectrum — from kindergarten through high school. We have two pools, a conservatory, lots of parks, and an awesome library. Our taxes pay for them.

Oak Park property taxes have been high for a long time, yet surveys and elections indicate most Oak Parkers like living here. The same party has been in power here for longer than Castro was Cuba's dictator. So complaining about your Oak Park real estate taxes is like complaining about there being too many gays or African Americans, or too many restaurants, or too few Republicans. Taxes are part of who we are, and they help keep it that way.

So if the property taxes really are a big deal to you, know that for most of us your whining reminders that our taxes are high are really annoying. We know they're high, but not too high. So please give it a rest.

Or better yet, move.

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Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 29th, 2015 6:25 PM

The property taxes here are so high that even my Liberal friends who think Everyone should pay more income taxes find themselves challenging the assessment on their property. Its the one time they think taxes are too high.

Dylan Bellisle  

Posted: June 29th, 2015 9:32 AM

The most prominent point of the article is that tax increases are voted for. Looking at the local turn-out for elections I am guessing that probably half of the commenters voted. To the other half - stop whining and start voting and getting involved in local government.

Demetrius Davis  

Posted: June 26th, 2015 9:28 PM

To the author: How exactly does educating kids across the race spectrum increase taxes?

The Reality is Out There from Oak Park  

Posted: July 31st, 2012 9:44 AM

At first, I really thought this article was a troll, a sensationalist headline and copy to capture ad clicks. Then I realized it was just another horribly-researched, emotional rant from Mr. Hubbuch. Looks like there's still no danger of the WJ becoming an advocate for the average citizen.

No Longer Good Enough to be from Oak Park  

Posted: July 30th, 2012 5:38 PM

While River Forest may have a run-down home or two, I'm sure they don't appreciate being referred to as a ghetto. Ah.. but seriously folks, it's disingenuous at best to blame high taxes on the police dept. We all have seen seen Ali El Saffar's pie chart showing only 13% of our tax bill goes to the village (including the police dept) while 2/3 goes to the school districts. And the last referendum was voted in by 6,000 residents. 11% hardly constitutes a majority of residents.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: July 30th, 2012 3:53 PM

Brian Slowiak, that is exactly the problem and why people have a problem understanding it, is difficult to understand.

JennyWren from Oak Park  

Posted: July 30th, 2012 3:37 PM

When I first moved to OP in 2003 I was paying about 10% of income in property taxes, now I am paying 25% despite COL raises. So, yes, I think taxes are too high--no kids, and am not receiving any more services than in 2003. Am paying $7K just for schools--more than the entire tax bill in a "nice" Chicago neighborhood. Would be happy to move to escape the smug attitude of people like Mr. Hubbuch. I guess "diversity" now means the wealthy supporting people in subsidized housing.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: July 30th, 2012 1:21 PM

"there ia another reason or taxes are high. We live next to a ghetto". The amount of taxes paid to police and business promotion is small as compared to the money spent and wasted in government and the school district. Austin is responsible for higher taxes?Hence African Americans? I think not. This is the same writer who stated the crime rate of one murder and one rape in a year in OP was about equal to no murders and no rapes in Western Springs. OP government wastes money.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: July 29th, 2012 2:56 PM

mike from op, it's not about the value of your home increasing, it's about your pay check increasing to keep up with the cost of taxes. People who work at raising taxes are in a business they raise their income to keep up with the taxes, while others can't afford it. If they didn't waste money they wouldn't need to take more money, but since they can take more money, they don't have any problem wasting money.

paul from oak park  

Posted: July 29th, 2012 2:43 PM

Hey John have you gotten your latest water bill yet/

mike from op  

Posted: July 29th, 2012 9:36 AM

If the increase in the value of my home kept pace with the increase in taxes I would have no issue with my tax bill. In my years in OP the taxes have gone from $3800 to $11,500, an increase of 302%. To keep pace I should be able to sell my house for $545,000. In looking at comparable sales of homes in the past year I think my home would sell for approx. $340,000. That's not whining about my taxes, but it is the reason we will leave after my kids are finished with school.

Walt Keneipp from Oak Park  

Posted: July 29th, 2012 6:40 AM

The actual percentage of the increase isn't that important, but the direction is. With $100 million in the coffers, the levy should not have increased at all. This is especially true now that the pay freeze is in place.


Posted: July 27th, 2012 10:28 AM

It does not matter that Sambolin sold her home for far more than the average sales price in OP. What you fail to mention is that her home is over 5,000 sqft and the lot size is 100x175, which is over 3x the size of most lots in OP. The median sale prices of homes in OP is $299,000; Evanston is $301,000 and Riverside is $396,000. OP is a nice community, but too many of their residents think they are better than everyone else.

@ Walt Keneipp  

Posted: July 27th, 2012 10:07 AM

Walt, your personal OPRF tax bill may have gone up 13%, but according to the Cook County Clerk's webpage, OPRF's total tax extension increased from 64,613,910 to 66,141,852; 2.36%. Keep those facts in mind.


Posted: July 27th, 2012 9:27 AM

@Laughing - Of course Sambolin's personal situation has everything to do with it. It has nothing to do with the subject matter of this editorial. One isolated home sale does not reflect the reality that exists for others due to these confiscatory taxes. A subject you obviously refuse to comprehend or unable to like the majority in OP. That's the sad part. It has so much going for it & then we have so many losers here who don't know have a clue. Too many village idiots.


Posted: July 27th, 2012 8:52 AM

Yeah, if you don't like it move. Don't demand more for the money spent, or that the Village learn to do more with less in the same way its citizens do, just get out. We don't want you making life hard for the good people of Oak Park who live off of your hard work. John has written some dumb things in his day, but he may have topped himself with this one. And let's start by getting all the non-residents out of Oak Park schools - political correctness be damned.

Walt Keneipp from Oak Park  

Posted: July 27th, 2012 8:05 AM

Not all of your tax bill is the result of referenda. We do need some fiscal oversight. It seems that the village board finally has some members watching costs. We should elect more of them, but 65% of your bill comes from the schools. For district 200, while sitting on $100 million, they have cost us about $750,000 in legal fees. On top of this, their portion of your tax bill went up 13% this year. Keep these facts in mind in the booth. The time for whining is over. It's time to vote.


Posted: July 27th, 2012 2:41 AM

Her personal situation has nothing to do with it. The fact is someone paid $1.34 Million for a house in Oak Park. The Market is the Market. People still want to lay down over a Million to call OP home. To me, it wouldn't make any difference if she was to have made $300K on the deal. To make 81% of the asking price is normal in real estate. She listed for $1.65 and sold for $1.34M. Its 75% if you take the original January list price. Still not to off base.


Posted: July 27th, 2012 12:33 AM

@ Laughing-Duh! Sambolin sold her home for 75 percent of asking price. Would have walked away w/$340K but due to extensive top to bottom renos & additions she walked away with zero profit and in addition lost money from the original investment. Not really a problem when you're one of those hated one percenters with a network job waiting for you in NY. What about those 175? foreclosure/short sales in OP currently? Why aren't they selling -some at giveaway prices?


Posted: July 26th, 2012 10:56 PM

Uhh....... Zoraida Sambolin formerly of NBC5 just sold her pad for $1.34 Million in a short time. Whats the problem?

What we need is sympathy and common sense from OP  

Posted: July 26th, 2012 7:08 PM

I wish no human being ill I hope that the day never comes when karma slaps Austin Healy as his tax bill increases, his wages don't increase, and he suddenly learns that his beloved Oak Park is casting him out because he can't pay the bills. You have to love OP despite its faults, not because of them...and anyone who pays a tax bill here knows we have issues. Only the evil wish hell upon others, Mr. Healy. And only ideologues refuse to see the truth when it is in front of them.


Posted: July 26th, 2012 2:04 PM

Laughing-Run? As in run/OP office -a place at the table that's been pre-set? To be in the minority because the "fix" is in? What's the point? Refuse to leave-as in can't give your house away due to the economy & high taxes. It's not about "hate OP" it's about reality. Is this stuff too deep for you? Keep laughing-sooner or later this crap will affect you & you'll get tired of bending over & you'll no longer be laughing. Ha!Ha!

Austin Healy  

Posted: July 26th, 2012 1:48 PM

rj Thank you for proving my point with your post. I know you will enjoy your stay in OP, all the time whining about how you are doomed and punished by being forced to live in Oak Park. BTW, I wish money was no object, I am just trying to get by, just like you. Only differance between me and you and your fellow anti-Oak Park types is that I enjoy living where I live.


Posted: July 26th, 2012 1:27 PM

Love to see the " I hate OP crowd" defend their stance but refuse to leave in the spirit of I CAN MAKE IT BETTER BUT WONT RUN!!! I also love the " I know whats wrong with OP but someone else will fix it" Ha HA HA......


Posted: July 26th, 2012 1:08 PM

soon home values will be worthless because taxes will be so high. I wish my company would relocate to a right to work state so i could get the fuq out of here.


Posted: July 26th, 2012 10:32 AM

Mr Healy, you must be another one of those parasites feeding from the public trough where money is no object @ the expense of others. We are being punished & we will be doomed to live here forever because no one in their right mind will pay these taxes with no relief in sight. Really enjoyed that positive post of yours though.

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: July 26th, 2012 10:12 AM

To No Longer Good Enough to be from Oak Park - Perfect, absolutely perfectly said. Thanks.

Brian in Oak Park  

Posted: July 26th, 2012 10:09 AM

John, your piece was interesting - though I can't believe any one with Indiana roots embraces unfettered tax increases. I was disappointed in your final sentence. It was off-putting and not in keeping with your August 9, 2011 column where you said, "But I do think many villagers also choose to live here because of its shared history and values connected to integration and diversity. We take pride in it." If you don't like people who don't share your enjoyment for taxes, maybe you should move?

Austin Healy from OP  

Posted: July 26th, 2012 9:10 AM

The last sentence in this article is wrong. It is a far better punishment for all the anti-Oak Park posters to have to remain in Oak Park for the rest of their days, hating every second, posting several negative comments on the WJ comment board every day, and realize that they are in a hell of their own making. If they moved they would immediatly begin ripping on their new town within days. Oak Park is better then most and worst than a few. Try a positive post, change is good for the soul.

Counting the Days from Oak Park  

Posted: July 26th, 2012 5:59 AM

Clearly someone in the Village invested in a PR agency to get OP on all of these "Best of..." lists. These things don't just happen. That said, while I find some of it truly cringeworthy, it is the only thing that the Village is doing that has any hope of raising our property values. If only we can dupe a few thousand more families into moving here, housing demand will exceed supply again, prices will rise, and I might actually break even when I sell and leave this silly village forever.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 25th, 2012 11:31 PM

One thing I can agree with on this article is your disdain the phony "Best 10" awards. I agree with your comment that "these awards are entirely subjective or based on cherry-picked metrics that are easy to manipulate." These awards have all sorts of devious cross marketing opportunities. For instance, and totally hypothetical, Family Circle is is owned by Meredith (Publishing) which owns 19 publications including Better Homes and Gardens, Fitness, Midwest Living, Scrapbooks, Better Homes and Gardens. A local realtor has recently been renamed Better Homes and Gardens Gloor Realty. Now is it possible that Meredith (owner of both Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens) helped get an OP Top Ten for Families to benefit.............! Forget all above, OP'ers are too clean to get involved in type marketing stunts.

High vs. Wasted from OP  

Posted: July 25th, 2012 10:41 PM

The problem with OP isn't the high taxes, it's the fact that those high taxes are mostly wasted on stupid projects like brick pavers, buying lots for hotels that don't get built, expensive software for schools, peoplesoft fiascos, million$ playgrounds and other crap. We have a basic problem with needs vs. wants in this community, and the resources are liberally taken advantage of by the ghetto residents. I'd leave if I could...since I can't, I will complain. DEAL WITH IT.

No Longer Good Enough to be from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2012 4:08 PM

Ha! My response (snarky name and all) to the Family Circle piece fits soooo perfectly here I'll just repeat it word for word: "I've lived here over 20 years. In the last ten years, my property taxes have gone up 240%, from a managable amount to a burdensome amount. I find it both amusing and unsettling how some Oak Parkers can talk about diversity on the one hand while showing the door to those for whom the ever climbing taxes are a greater challenge with the other."


Posted: July 25th, 2012 3:19 PM

Oakparkbob-Goes to show how messed up the whole state is if most of IL is catching up. If we don't put the brakes on by voting down referendums & voting out the criminals who use our homes as their cash stations we're doomed. I don't need John to tell me that $1,700/mo I pay in property taxes is not way too high - no,it's criminal. I don't even live in the estate section. Another scam-lawyers coming to your rescue in reducing your taxes which shouldn't be that high in the first place. Wake up!

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 25th, 2012 1:51 PM

John H. -- your comment "Or better yet, move", is insulting to all who live in Oak Park. There is a serious tax issue and it has to do with spending and value. The village has wasted million in the last two decades on it downtown development and you have the brass to blame those who complain. I am sure that the OP Realtors who paid for nine pages in this week's Wednesday Journal advertising were thrilled to see your "Or better yet, move." comment.


Posted: July 25th, 2012 12:35 PM

I've lived in OP over 30 years & have seen our taxes increase over that time. Mine are now $8500 for a small house - and I always hire a lawyer to fight the assessment & win! I was recently complaining about property taxes to other people from Chicago, Park Ridge, and southern & northern suburbs & I found that their taxes were as high or higher for similar housing! It appears that at one time, OP's taxes were extraordinarily high but it looks like the rest of the metro area has caught up to us!


Posted: July 25th, 2012 11:38 AM

Also, considering the left loves to claim some of us aren't paying our fair share, many people feel like we are being squeezed at not only the federal level, but the local level as well. Paying taxes is fine, but we also have a right to want to make sure our money is being spent wisely and not unnecessarily. Govts are not known for their efficiency... Just saying.


Posted: July 25th, 2012 11:32 AM

I don't think Oak Park taxes are outrageous and I do think we get a nicely run community for our tax dollars. However, we'd be fooling ourselves if we don't think high property taxes deter people from moving here. Property taxes just keep going up regardless of the value of your home and for many people who don't have high incomes that increase each year, it does create a burden. Pretty soon, only the 1% will be able to be a homeowner in Oak Park. Ironic isn't it??


Posted: July 25th, 2012 11:02 AM

Move? But John, aren't you the guy that said that when people leave Oak Park because of "the taxes" it's really because they are awful racists?


Posted: July 25th, 2012 10:27 AM

John, Take your own advice and stop whining about us whining about taxes. Dissent is only valid if you agree with it? You call yourself a journalist? Typical leftist insinuating that people who complain about taxes are likely to complain about gays and African Americans. Speaking of Cuba- a place some of YOU should MOVE to so Illinois can be cleansed of its corruption & over reach allowing it to be fiscally habitable once again.


Posted: July 25th, 2012 9:57 AM

It's easy for Mr. H. to be pleased with higher taxes - it assists OP in "keeping out" the people who he doesn't wish to be too close to - the ones that live, as he put it, in "a ghetto." Of course it might also help that he is a retired former law partner and his wife receives a very nice pension, at a very young age (relative to opportunities of the people who pay for it), of a retired teacher. And so they are immune from the effects of "The Great Recession." That's alright, we can eat cake!

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2012 9:26 AM

I'm at the point that I'd like to move, but also don't forget that sellers in OP pay one of the highest transfer taxes in the area - $8 per thousand.


Posted: July 25th, 2012 9:01 AM

You also failed to mention that our taxes are high because of the 3 TIF districts. TIF districts increase all property taxes ( The Board is then allowed to spend taxpayer money with no oversight. If I moved it would not be due to the taxes but because of people like you who seem to dislike descent. There are numerous people who are trying to make the Board more accountable, but I guess that is too much for you to comprehend.


Posted: July 25th, 2012 9:00 AM

OP would be in worse shape if everyone moved when they did not like something. People cannot give our elected officials a blank check to do as they please. The revolutionaries in this country tried to make things better when they did not like something. They did not move. Yes our taxes are high for all the reasons you mentioned except the police. They could use additional training on how to solve crimes for there are countless murders and burglaries that are unsolved.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: July 24th, 2012 10:13 PM

Ah. The old if you don't like it move. My favorite.

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