Elected officials of Oak Park’s taxing bodies need to get back to basics, reduce real estate taxes and again represent taxpayers at the board table ahead of special interests. Speaking as a former elected official of 12 years, historically, Oak Park taxing bodies strived to efficiently deliver services and represented taxpayers at the board table. 

District 97 is an example where, today, taxpayers are no longer represented. This administration, with their board’s approval, increased costs by adding safety and mental health personnel resulting in a duplication of services provided by the village and township. They miscalculated a tax levy resulting in over-taxation one year and recently refused to provide any real estate tax relief when the TIFs expired. 

The board’s recent construction spree includes new administration offices on Madison Street, followed by additional building expansions, and a reduction of valuable “open space” at their school sites. The lack of oversight of Oak Park Township’s Senior Citizens Transportation program by its board resulted in termination of outside funding and higher costs to taxpayers (WJ, Oct. 31, 2017: “OP Township falsified Pace ridership by thousands – Suburban bus system cuts ties and subsidy with Oak Park over fake riders”). 

All of the above has been reported in Wednesday Journal and Oak Park taxpayers deserve better. Are we numb from the 30 years of single-party (Democrat) rule in Springfield and the lack of representative diversity in Oak Park? Oak Park’s Republican Party laid the foundation for a vibrant and diverse Oak Park from the 1960s through the early 2000s, yet has been silent ever since. 

When was the last newspaper article highlighting actions taken by a local taxing body to improve efficiency and reduce taxes? Oak Park’s real estate taxes have outpaced inflation by 100 percent since 1999 and excludes sales tax and fee increases imposed by the local taxing bodies. 

I challenge Oak Park taxing bodies to roll back real estate taxes by 1) giving back the expired TIF windfalls and 2) identify and implement efficiencies while improving services and reducing expenses by 5 percent or more per year for the next five years — a strategy found in the private sector. It is time that Oak Park’s taxing bodies do the same.

Richard Willis

Oak Park

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