The largest motivating factor for my candidacy for village trustee is that I want to do my part to ensure that Oak Park remains as affordable a place to live as possible. I fear that my son and daughter will not be able to afford to live in Oak Park when they grow up, and that my wife and I might one day be priced out of this village.
I fear that Oak Park is losing its generational and economic diversity and that our small business community is losing its ability to achieve profitability. I also fear that our landlords are losing the flexibility to provide affordable housing. All of these fears are due to the rising tax burden that Oak Park is experiencing.
Between 1999 and 2015, the collective levy increase by Oak Park taxing bodies was 104%. This increase has been nearly 2½ times the level of inflation during this span (43%).* Operating expenses by our taxing bodies have in most cases exceeded inflation and significant capital improvement expenses have caused levies to rise so steeply. In the coming years, our taxing bodies must critically address these two components of spending to ensure that the rate of levy increases is significantly less dramatic.
The intergovernmental forum (IGOV) established in 2011 needs to strengthen its resolve to meaningfully address the rising tax burden in Oak Park. At the end of each year, every taxing body should report on how their annual operating expense increases have compared to the consumer price index (CPI). The goal should be to have operating expenses as closely in line with the CPI as possible. Areas for reducing the rate of operating expense increases should be identified.
Furthermore, at the beginning of each year every taxing body should report on any significant capital improvement projects that are on the horizon. The goal would be to get feedback and gain support for these projects from the other taxing bodies. Too often, capital improvement expenses are only considered from the perspective of the taxing body making the improvement. Discussing capital improvement projects from the perspective of each taxing body would ensure that large projects are considered from many different perspectives and would result in increased collaboration and projects that are in the best interests of the entire community.
Additionally, any taxing body that is considering a referendum should get feedback from the other taxing bodies. Ideally, the other taxing bodies would vote on whether they support or oppose any given referendum question. This would be extremely useful for voters who are trying to determine how they feel about referendums that are being proposed. On top of that, it would motivate taxing bodies to be as reasonable and honest as possible when going to voters for more money.
I am not content seeing a mass exodus of people from Oak Park because they can no longer afford to live in our village. I believe that it is the obligation of our governing bodies to collectively and critically evaluate their spending.
* Tax levy and inflation statistics are based on data from the Cook County Clerk’s Office and the U.S. Labor Department, as maintained and compiled by the Oak Park Township Assessor’s Office.
Dan Moroney is a candidate for village of Oak Park trustee.