Oak Park’s village board passed its 2021 fiscal year budget Dec. 8 during its last meeting of the year. The budgeting process went together smoothly, despite the major financial concessions made to counteract the economic repercussions of COVID-19.  Spending in the new budget is down roughly $22 million from last year’s levels.

The 2021 budget was put together entirely by village staff without input from the board’s finance committee and reflects $138.4 million in overall revenues and $146.3 million in overall expenditures. Property taxes were hiked by three percent. 

The village board praised staff for the work put into creating the budget. All but Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla voted in favor of passing it. 

Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said the village board had a responsibility to keep the government going and if four trustees were to vote against the budget, the village government would shut down. 

“Do we have everything we need in this budget on a personal level and for our own views? No,” said Abu-Taleb. “But this is what government is all about. It’s compromise.”

Walker-Peddakotla, who believes budgets are “moral documents,” said she could not vote for the budget “in good conscience.”

“I think the biggest failure of all in this budget was really the failure to reduce the police department budget after countless demands that we heard from the civil rights movement of 2020,” said Walker-Peddakotla.

She continued, saying the village has done “very little” to address policing in Oak Park this year. 

Walker-Peddakotla said she had thought a lot about the changes in budgets over the last decade. 

“Ten years ago, in 2011, the village spent around $600,000 on public health and over $18 million in police,” she said. “In this proposed budget… we’re spending $500,000 roughly on public health and over $26 million on police.”

This year’s budget includes $26.3 million for policing compared to the 2020 budget at $25.5 million. Despite spending cuts made to the police budget, police pension hikes account for the majority of the increase.

 Calls to defund the police, Walker-Peddakotla said, were “calls to rewrite the budget  so that our spending aligns with the needs of our community.”

Abu-Taleb repeated his previous stance that the village would not defund the police while he was in office.

“This board has voted we are not going to defund the police. I don’t understand why this conversation keeps happening,” he said. “It’s time for us to recognize that our role is to serve the community as a whole.”

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