I agree that a major problem with the taxation system is that no one has overarching power to prioritize and control spending of various taxing bodies. An oversight commission might help but without power to impose controls is not likely to achieve much.

Every spending line item has a constituency, and every taxing body tends to be governed by a board of folks who are passionate about that body’s work. No one wants to see their own ox gored. Everybody is in favor of spending discipline so long as somebody else bears the pain. When everyone in the family wants the latest iPhone and an unlimited data plan but the money isn’t there, sometimes they all have to make do with a flip phone.

In my view, the answer is not capping expenditures at their current level plus inflation, but rather capping and cutting. Across the board. Gore everybody’s ox. Force every agency to prioritize its own spending and cut the least necessary expenditures. Every agency thinks all of its own spending is essential, but the truth is that while almost all spending is useful, some items are more expendable than others. 

Reducing library hours or village hall customer service hours will produce vociferous complaints from some, but most folks might accept it. Call the question. 

Snowplowing alleys quickly after a storm is a great service but maybe slower is cheaper. Call the question. 

The high school wants to spend $250M but only has a $100M slush fund. Nobody can stop them from spending the slush fund, but let them prioritize the money in hand without any promise that it will be replenished. Maybe an iPhone pool would be nice but a flip-phone pool will do in a pinch. Call the question.

If people insist on a full suite of services, people have to be prepared to pay the cost. If people aren’t prepared to pay what the full suite costs, they will have to accept a lower level of services. Call the question. 

But stop calling the question piecemeal, via whatever referendum happens to be first to the ballot. That’s not an intelligent way to prioritize.

Bob Stigger

Oak Park

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