The president of the District 200 Board of Education insists that the high school has no plans to withdraw its lawsuit against the Village of Oak Park over a dispute about tax increment financing (TIF) payments.

Board President Ralph Lee said the village has given the high school no legitimate reason to even consider withdrawing the suit, noting that village officials have yet to address the specific issues outlined in the lawsuit. Lee singled out Village Manager Tom Barwin, who’s been especially critical of the high school’s actions.

“I find it interesting that he has a great deal to say about everything except the particulars of the lawsuit,” Lee said.

The village was served with the suit on March 8 and has 30 days to respond. Barwin continues to maintain that OPRF is trying to make a “money-grab” by having Oak Park taxpayers foot the bill for its suit.

Now, in addition to not agreeing on TIF payments, the two sides are also having trouble agreeing on when to meet about the dispute.

District 200 has designated Cheryl Witham, its chief financial officer, and Paul Keller, its attorney, to discuss the suit with the village. No high school board members or other administrators will participate, said Lee. Barwin said village attorneys are setting up those meetings to address this issue. He also insists that both parties sit down and discuss this without lawyers. No way, contends Lee.

“How many years are we supposed to continue to talk when those talks thus far have produced nothing?”

The village manager continued to stress that OPRF has among the highest fund balances of any school district in the state, roughly $80 million. Lee said the high school makes no apologies for its fund balances, and added that it’s a weak argument for the village to make while failing to pay the high school what it’s owed.

“Barwin has provided us with one reason for us to withdraw the lawsuit – that we’re rich, but we don’t consider that an adequate reason,” he said.


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