Usually, the Oak Park Library sale is conducted at the high school, which has large rooms to run it. This year the sale was conducted on village premises on Madison Street. It was a crowded, disagreeable affair. Now I’m thinking, although I don’t have the facts, that this is because of a money dispute between the village the school board. [Editor’s note: The sale was held at 260 Madison because construction is going on at OPRF.]

Here’s my point of view. I have lived here for 32 years and paid taxes for 32 years. I don’t have any children, and have never had any use for the high school except for the library sale. I’m not necessarily complaining. I understand I am part of a society and that we need to educate the children, and so on. But my taxes keep going up, and I don’t see any control over spending for the education or for fire and police services. I think I have contributed enough to the school system. I would like to be exempt from paying any more into it. Or, do something to bring the expenses under control.

Now if I were a union person working for any of these three entities, I would never agree to any change in the pension as long as I knew the villagers were on the hook for it. It’s like a pay-cut-free zone, a pension-protected haven. While some of us lose our jobs and see our pensions sink with the market, those folks don’t have to worry.

It doesn’t seem to me any of this can be addressed until either the village goes bankrupt or until some law prevents it. In the private sector, almost all defined-benefit pensions have simply disappeared. The mathematics won’t support them. GM and Bethlehem Steel have been overwhelmed by pension obligations. But on the village level they’re still alive and well.

Moreover, for every ugly trader at Goldman there must be 1,000 workers, in villages across the nation, gaming the system. Getting that higher pay the last three years so their pensions are larger. Like the Bellwood administrator getting $472,255 under 10 different job titles, and who used sick pay to jack his pay in the years just prior to retirement to hike his pension under the formulas.

The defined-benefit problem is not new, nor is gaming the system. Probably what has to be done is to review pensions, perhaps on a case-by-case basis, and cheat these people fair and square. Pay them something, but more like what the villagers can afford as opposed to unopposed union agreements, and then put the system going forward on the same sort of contribution basis the rest of the world has going. After all, we will all be cheated by Social Security. They will raise the age, lower the benefits. Any intelligent person expects it.

Otherwise, I will run into more people like I did this past summer, a woman living in River Forest who complained her taxes had gone up 48 percent. They must go up – to pay for all the zone-protected people in the local governments.

 – Thomas Barnard is a 33-year old Oak Park resident, insurance broker and novelist. He just recently had his first book, ‘The Intelligence Break’, published.

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