Oak Parkers will be asked on the Nov. 6 ballot whether the village should further study consolidating the village government with three other taxing bodies – Oak Park Township, the Park District of Oak Park and Oak Park Public Library.

The advisory referendum will not be legally binding and will simply ask whether the village should study the issue.

Asking the question comes at the recommendation of the Taxing Bodies Efficiencies Task Force, which was established earlier this year by the village board to find cost savings in the village to help reduce property taxes.

The ballot question has been opposed by members of the various boards of the three smaller taxing bodies, many of whom have argued that asking the question constitutes a hostile takeover by the village.

David Pope, chairman of the task force and former village president, said the goal is to find ways to do more with less and that the task force will bring more recommendations to the board later in August. 

The question on the ballot will read: “Shall the merger and consolidation of Oak Park taxing bodies be considered, including, but not limited to, the Village of Oak Park, Oak Park Township, the Oak Park Public Library and the Park District of Oak Park, to determine if there would be efficiencies, the elimination of redundancies and/or property tax reduction for the residents of Oak Park?”

The referendum was approved with five trustees voting yes, Trustee Simone Boutet voting no and Trustee Andrea Button absent.

As at last week’s meeting, residents and board members of other taxing bodies voiced their opposition to the referendum. 

Kent Dean, of the group Oak Park Call to Action, said the question is unnecessary without more information. “Let’s have an answer to the question of where to find efficiencies within the village and then come back to voters,” he said, adding that he believes the referendum is “laying the groundwork for a campaign”.

Boutet echoed the thought, saying the village needs to study the issue more before taking the question to voters. 

“We have many elections,” she said. “Why don’t we take the time to do our homework?”

Trustee Jim Taglia said the move is not an attempt at a “hostile takeover” of the other taxing bodies. “It’s not about increasing the authority of the village or board in any way, shape or form,” he said. “It’s never been about cutting services.”

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb emphasized that considering consolidation is a “structural issue” and not a “people issue.” 

“This house has structural problems that cannot be corrected by a fresh coat of paint or reorganizing the furniture,” he said. 

Abu-Taleb criticized Boutet for “accusations of conspiracy” and added that the vote is just to give the village guidance on whether to proceed.

“Trustee Boutet talks about transparency – what is not transparent about putting the question on the ballot?” he said.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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