“Along with these tax increases, are there any benefits to the citizens?”

Quite simply: Yes.

But first let’s look at where we have gone over the last four months in our budget process:

We have cut $3.6 million in expenses from the originally proposed budget. Those cuts were made with a mixture of program and staff reductions.

Second, it is imperative we have a strong “rainy day fund” – technically called our Unreserved General Fund Balance. With the passage of this year’s budget, we increase that fund from a deficit to a $460K positive amount. Our rating agencies recommend a 20 percent “rainy day” fund balance which equates to $9 million. Clearly, we have much work to do over the coming years to continue to cut costs while providing a high level of service as we work to improve our fund balance.

Benefits to the citizens in this year’s budget include strong support in two of our most critical areas – Public Safety and Public Works – which make up 66 percent of our total budget.

Finally, the actual direct cost to the average homeowner will not be $400 as suggested in an earlier e-mail, but is as follows:

Monthly fee increases
• Refuse Disposal – 64-gallon can, +$1.64/month
     96-gallon can, +$1.95/month
• Water/Sewer (avg. homeowner) – +$7.61/month
• Property Tax (home value $400,000), +$2.50/month
Total/month = $12.06
Annually = $144.72

It is my goal (and that of my colleagues and our staff) to continue to look for cost-cutting measures, and there is a commitment to do just that. In addition, a $.02/gallon increase in the gas tax will provide $400,000 in revenues targeted for street and alley way repaving.

Over the last few years, raw materials used for street repairs has jumped 30 percent due to the corresponding increase in petroleum, so you can see why added fees are necessary as we seek to limit the property tax burden but continue with capital improvements.

As for the comparison of the newly redone Marion Street and our budget, the law does not allow moving monies from a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district to our general fund. And the flip side of that is without the TIF, it is unlikely we would have been able to embark on DTOP capital improvements, necessary to strengthen our retail environment.

I hope this helps answer some questions, and I encourage anyone to reach out through phone or e-mail: 708/358-5788 or rjohnson@oak-park.us

Ray Johnson
Oak Park village trustee

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