As Governor Quinn and General Assembly leaders meet to decide on how best to approach financial reform, each of our representatives should tell this paper, and their constituents, how they stand on the issue and what it means to Oak Park taxpayers. What’s the bottom line cost from this apparent balance sheet cost shifting?

When Mike Madigan sprang his 11th hour proposal to shed the state’s pension liability by pushing it down to the local tax jurisdictions, I called each of my state representatives to find out how they stood on the proposal. The offices of each indicated they didn’t know, with exception of Ms. Lilly whose office told me she knew, but couldn’t tell me.

Hmmm. I think we should know.

According to a policy brief by the Heartland Institute (Property Tax Levies in Cook County, Illinois: An Analysis, March 2012), tax levies (and debt) by municipalities and other Cook County taxing districts are rising faster than widely understood. Between 2000 and 2010, the consumer price index rose 22.5 percent. However, according the Heartland’s research, the local tax levies for Oak Park jurisdictions over the comparative time period rose as follows: Village of Oak Park, 76.85%; Oak Park Township, 56.81%; District 200, 117.55%; District 97, 62.63% (excludes the 2011 referendum); and Park District of Oak Park, 324.87% (what the heck happened at the Park District, 2nd highest of 98 districts?). Overall a bottom line 89% tax levy increase across these districts, not including the other tax jurisdictions on our tax bill — Cook County, Mosquito Abatement, etc.

So what’s our elected state leadership proposing by cleaning its balance sheet while blowing holes in local jurisdictions, and what’s the bottom line financial impact to Oak Park taxpayers? Will the net effect of these changes be to squeeze out all other local programs, as columnist Fareed Zakaria writes for Time Magazine’s current edition? I think our elected representatives should tell us, don’t you? Ahead of the vote.

Brian Lantz
Oak Park

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