A recent letter to this newspaper demanded that the Oak Park Village Board use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to “create a plan that truly makes our community whole.” Did they have in mind all Oak Park taxpayers when they made this proposal? 

Fortunately, the village board made the right decision to “invest in the community” by retaining the first down payment to replenish its fund balances. They should also do the same with the next installment as any rushed decisions are premature until the Biden Administration develops and enacts a plan to defeat COVID and communicates a coherent message, one not fraught with the current confusion. The entire community should benefit from the ARPA payments, not select interest groups led by self-proclaimed activists. Financial support to individuals and families is already available with the ARPA passage that included cash payments to many Oak Park residents and an ongoing monthly subsidy to those with children.

The Cook County Treasurer’s Office released the second installment bills this week. If you are like me, your real estate taxes will have increased 20%+ vs. last year. Since we purchased our Oak Park home in 1988, real estate taxes have increased at a compounded rate of 8.7% or 6.5 times inflation. Over the years, taxing bodies approved increases, all the while Springfield defaulted in their obligations to Oak Park taxpayers, local media remained silent, and property appreciation lagged behind other suburbs. 

What do we have to show for Oak Park’s high taxes? An elementary school district with a rating that must be improved! All of the new high-rises in downtown Oak Park, coupled with the expiration of TIF districts, should have reduced the real estate tax burden. This did not happen as Oak Park taxing districts have not been financially prudent. 

An initiative the Oak Park Village Board should enact is a moratorium on all proposals that would remove property from the tax rolls, while every taxing body should limit wage increases below the average inflation rate of the past five years and reduce all other expenses by 5%+ through efficiencies in service delivery.

Richard Willis, Oak Park

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