The Park District of Oak Park board of commissioners voted Thursday to raise the district’s tax levy nine percent. That decision, which captures the full taxing level allowed under a 2005 referendum, follows a 3.5 percent levy reduction last year.
This was the last year the park board was allowed, under the terms of a 2005 referendum, to raise its levy by more than the consumer price index and the assessed valuations of any new property added to the tax rolls. The levy increase will provide the park district with an additional $644,414 in funds, including $416,269 for capital projects. The increase means an additional tax of $8.88 per $100,000 of a homes sale value.
“This basically fulfills what taxpayers approved of in 2005,” Executive Director Gary Balling said Friday. He said the park board had four options from which to choose, only one of which produced adequate capital revenues. In a memo prior to Thursday’s meeting, Balling said the decision to choose the fourth option “will have a direct effect on the taxing ability of the (park) district in years to come.”
Park board President Mark Gartland said Monday the vote was “not an easy decision for anyone on the board,” but that the funds were needed to continue park improvements desired by a majority of village residents. He noted that last year the park district opted to pass a levy lower than the .447 allowed by the 2005 referendum (see box). He said that was done out of concern for the effects of tax hikes on residents during an economic downturn.
The park district is currently going through a comprehensive master planning process for all 18 of its parks and facilities. Renovations are scheduled to be done in two and three phases, due to expense.
Gartland said Thursday’s decision came after commissioners and park staff heard from many people expressing a desire for more, not less park services and improvements. In the face of a tight economy, people are staying closer to home, and using the parks more.
What the park board did not want to see happen, Gartland said, was renovations appropriate for first phases being delayed due solely to a shortage of funds.