Imagine that, a Cook County judge last week told the three parties in the lawsuit over TIF funds in Oak Park to find a mediator to help settle the disagreement over just how much the village owes the high school. And for good measure, the judge once again dismissed a key argument made by the school in its fight with the village.
We could not agree more with the judge’s strong suggestion and have been saying for a year that our elected officials ought to get in a room and talk until this is settled. Leave the outside lawyers and the school finance wizards at home.
The village has acknowledged it owed Oak Park and River Forest High School $1.8 million from the downtown TIF fund. The school’s interpretation of a badly crafted but unanimously approved agreement from a decade ago is that the village government owes it $3.3 million. Seems certain that more than $100,000 of the $1.5 million difference has already gone out the door to the outside lawyers.
The village and District 97, the elementary school district, came to a financial agreement on the TIF more than a year ago through direct conversation. Being reasonable, though, resulted in Dist. 97 being named as a defendant alongside village government when the high school filed its suit.
After press time, the school board at OPRF was planning an executive session to take Judge Peter Flynn’s recommendation under advisement. We hope the school board proves ready to enter nonbinding mediation to resolve this dispute and end the spectacle of local governmental bodies in court suing each other over our tax dollars.