Do you want a 50% tax increase? That’s what the Cook County Forest Preserve is going to ask you.

There is a referendum on November’s ballot to increase the Cook County Forest Preserve taxing rate by 0.025%. Sounds pretty small, until you realize the current rate is 0.051%. That’s almost a 50% increase. District 200 would be jealous.

One of the goals identified in the referendum is to “restore 30,000 acres to good ecological health.” Do we let our forest preserves deteriorate until we finally get around to asking voters for more money? Were there other efforts we could have deprioritized so this didn’t happen?

Twenty-one percent of this levy, the largest portion of this increase, will go to pension debt. Because it’s not an Illinois tax party without the pension pooper showing up. To the county’s credit, they disclose this; however, you won’t see it headlining any referendum marketing materials.

Some goals of the referendum do indeed align with an increased levy, such as expanding the forest preserve acreage and creating a permanent conservation corps. I can see voters getting behind these goals. Seventeen percent of the levy goes to land acquisition. But what happens to those tax dollars when the county completes their land grab?

Strange that no one has called to fund these preservation efforts by defunding the Cook County Forest Preserve Police, most notably Oak Park’s very own county commissioner and defund-the-police advocate Brandon Johnson. After all, nearly 20% of the CCFP budget goes to public safety. I guess that fad has passed. There will be no marches from Quercus Woods to Saganashkee Slough.

Sometimes the issue isn’t the amount of the increase ($3-5 per month for the typical Oak Park homeowner), rather the context provided in regards to the increase. If this were marketed as the massive 50% budgetary increase that it is instead of the Sally Struthers “price of a cup of coffee” method, there might be more questions. When you live in the Land of Tax Silos under the People’s Republic of Mosquito Abatement, taxes are like death by a thousand cuts — 0.076% doesn’t sound like much until you add it to the dozen or so other taxing bodies.

If I expected one government unit to be forthright with the taxpayers, it was the forest preserve. Just tell it like it is: 50% price increase. Seems like a small ask for a “small” ask.

Nicholas Binotti
Oak Park

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