Representatives from every governmental agency in Oak Park met Saturday to discuss their respective budgets and how they impact the economic sustainability in the village.

Trustees and board members from the park district, village board, library board,  township and two school boards addressed organizational challenges, taxes, expenses and revenues.

Most importantly, the six entities aimed to figure out ways to cooperate with one another to identify savings for Oak Park taxpayers.

During a breakout session, where representatives gathered in groups to discuss opportunities for collaboration, Village Trustee Peter Barber noted that with several new developments coming to the village over the next few years, particularly the 21-story rental tower at Lake and Forest, the village would face greater costs for services.

Village Trustee Adam Salzman said the village is working to trim its 2015 budget and find new sources of revenue. 

Bob Spatz, board president of Elementary School District 97, suggested that the six boards work collectively to determine their combined debt load. Spatz also recommended working to determine whether it would be legal for the different taxing entities to borrow from one another to help pay down debt service, rather than turning to banks for loans.

“Instead of 2 percent [in interest] going to the bank, it would be 2 percent going to the school district,” he said.

The group also noted that it makes sense to team up when it comes to lobbying for their priorities in Springfield.

Spatz said the six entities also should consider coming to an agreement on their analysis of the consumer price index, which is used to make projections of future budgets. Disagreements over the CPI assumptions between various taxing entities “could be a source of conflict” in the future, Spatz said.

Barber said in a presentation to the group that the intergovernmental conference should be an annual or semi-annual event, and the various boards should consider pitching in on a staff person to coordinate the event. 

Contact: tim@oakpark.com

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