Early voting has begun in the upcoming election set for Nov. 6 and Oak Parkers are faced with a question of whether the village should pursue consolidating various taxing bodies under one administrative umbrella.
The nonbinding referendum has been controversial, with advocates arguing that it could save taxpayers in administrative costs and opponents calling it a power grab by the village.
The question reads as follows: “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?”
Approval of the referendum, proposed by the Taxing Bodies Efficiencies Task Force, an ad hoc committee created by the Oak Park Board of Trustees, would give the village the green light to move forward with studying consolidation.
Oak Park Township Supervisor Claremarie Keenan said in a written statement that the township’s position “has been to provide information and clarity around the issues — not campaign with a position.
“Misinformation and inaccuracies are circulating and we have tried to stick with the facts,” the statement notes. “All along, we have stated we are not opposed to finding efficiencies and savings. We have several partnerships/collaborations in place which speak to our commitment to savings and efficiencies.”
The statement adds that neither the creation of the task force nor the creation of the referendum were “collaborative or transparent.”
“Through all of this, we have continued and will continue to provide our services to the community efficiently and collaboratively,” the township statement notes.
Diane Stanke, a spokesperson for the park district, released a statement noting that the park district “continues to strive to provide quality programs and facilities to meet the needs of Oak Park residents.
“We are generating almost 50 percent of our budget through earned revenue, which is an increase from 29 percent in 2012,” the statement reads. “The park district agrees that taxes need to be evaluated, but there is no proof that consolidation saves money. However, there is research that shows that consolidation can reduce services.
“The park district collaborates with all of the Oak Park taxing bodies and we look forward to continuing to find ways to collaborate to reduce expenses and redundancies.”