In her Feb. 19 One View, “Oak Park’s Urgency: Reining in Excessive Taxation,” village trustee candidate Bridgett Baron makes the argument that Oak Park’s high property taxes keep Oak Park’s housing values low. To bolster her argument, she included a chart to show that since 2005, the tax levy has risen by nearly 70 percent while home values are up by only 2.6 percent.
Would you be surprised to learn that, in fact, since 2012 property tax rates are up by only 5 percent while property values are up by almost 30 percent? I’ve provided a chart so you can see for yourself.
Both charts are “true,” yet both fail to illustrate the whole picture. It is certainly true that for someone who purchased a home in Oak Park at almost the top of the housing bubble, Ms. Baron’s chart might roughly show the relationship between the value of their house and the village’s total tax levy. It is just as true that my chart roughly shows the relationship between home values and tax rates for someone who bought their home in 2012.
So what do these charts tell us about property taxes in Oak Park? Mostly, it tells us that charts like these are not a good way to look at them.
No simple visualization can adequately show the complex relationship between housing values, assessed taxes, and municipal spending. But no matter how you look at it, our property taxes are high, and appear poised to rise higher, perhaps unsustainably so.
An honest discussion about how to solve this issue can only occur if we use an honest approach to evaluate our tax burden, how that burden is distributed, and whether Oak Park’s spending plans align with its economy and its values.
To Ms. Baron and all candidates for office with the village and other local taxing bodies, I urge you: Don’t try to dumb it down for us; we’re not dummies.