Oak Park voters have more to vote on in the upcoming election beyond who should step into the Oval Office. Two advisory referendum questions regarding the financial practices of local taxing bodies have made it onto the ballot. Oak Parkers will have the option to vote yes or no on both.
Both referenda are non-binding; meaning, if passed, local taxing bodies, such as Oak Park public school districts, have no legal obligation to operate in accordance with the outcome.
One referendum suggests limiting the operating cash balance of Oak Park taxing bodies and having any excess money returned to taxpayers: “Shall the Operating Cash Balances of local Oak Park Governments be limited to one-half year’s Operating Expenses, as measured at the start of the fiscal year, with the excess returned as soon as possible to the taxpayers through temporarily lowered taxes?”
Don’t dust off those accounting textbooks just yet – fund balances represent the remaining cash after paying all expenses and depositing revenues. Fund balances can be a safeguard when unexpected challenges arise.
For instance, Oak Park Township has a policy to keep an amount equal to four or six months of operations in its fund balance, according to township manager Gavin Morgan. If a major disaster struck, the township could rely on its fund balance to continue functioning for that period of time.
Fund balances can also be used in scenarios less apocalyptic. In the past, Oak Park Township has had to dip into its fund balance to pay bills, after Cook County failed to forward tax collections on time.
However, a fund balance wildly exceeding the cost of expenditures can be viewed as hoarding taxpayer dollars.
The other referendum proposes necessitating Oak Park taxing bodies obtain voter approval on certain capital expenditures: “Shall any capital expenditure of $5 million or more by any local taxing body within Oak Park be subject to a binding referendum for approval or rejection by the voters?”
Despite the inclusion of the word “binding,” the referendum is decidedly not binding, due to the method in which it made it onto the ballot. As is the case regarding the fund balance referendum.
Sponsored by citizen Kevin Peppard, the two referenda made it on the ballot after being approved by electors, or registered Oak Park voters, during the Oak Park Township’s annual meeting last July. Every referendum brought to the ballot through this process are entirely advisory, not binding, in nature.