Pavlovian Response To Oak Park Property Taxes

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By John Hubbuch

I got around to reading some of the comments to my column "Stop Whining about Oak Park's taxes" (July 25). I was pleased to get so many reponses. I suppose if you write a purposefully provoc ative column you will get some strong responses, but I must admit to being disappointed in the failure of almost all the comments to respond to the content of my column which sought to draw a distintion between high taxes and too high taxes. I pointed out that our  taxes are high because the voters pass referenda; there are additional governmental costs due to our proximity to Chicago's west side and that the community has high expectations of its government. Our taxes have been high for a long time, and anyone that has moved here in the last ten years should have been aware of the taxes. Hardly any of the comments addressed any of my points.            

Instead some were upset that I told the complainers to move if the taxes were too high, or that I was somehow interfering with their free speech  rights. One person accused me of being a poor journalist. All I can say is I watched Walter Cronkite, and I am certainly no journalist.                        

So I still believe that our taxes are high , but not too high. So whiners I must ask: what should your property taxes be? Just like in school when you graded your own essay, I'd be interested in what  you think your  property taxes should be?  If you pay $10,000 a year, should those taxes be $8,000? $6,000? How were they computed? Do you void referendum results? What should teacher salaries be? Where do you make cuts? And how much would those cuts reduce property taxes? What towns have the same property base, quality of services and expectations , yet have significantly lower taxes? Evanston? LaGrange? Hyde Park?      

 Now if you really felt strongly you could run for office or work on an anti-referendum campaign-- actually do something about your property taxes. Or you could just keep complaining about your property taxes. Along with the weather.  

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Oakparker from Oak Park  

Posted: August 23rd, 2012 10:13 PM

Yes, I gripe, because we get less services and pay more taxes and fees than when we moved here. Could we move? Yes. The caveat is the value of our house went down because the Village does not enforce minimum property standards anymore. Would you want to pay even today's market prices to live next to rundown properties?

Kevin Cassidy from Oak Park  

Posted: August 23rd, 2012 1:57 PM

This is a link to a very informative paper on tax distribution in Oak Park. It was posted by The Township of Oak Park Values.pdf

Kevin Cassidy from Oak Park  

Posted: August 23rd, 2012 1:50 PM



Posted: August 22nd, 2012 6:21 PM

The other thing I would say is that neighborhing suburbs tax rates should not be a benchmark either. OP having lower taxes could be viewed as a competitive advantage, especially if there isn't a decrease in service levels relative to other communities. I don't have a problem paying taxes. I have a problem with needlessly throwing money away with no accountability.


Posted: August 22nd, 2012 5:44 PM

And Russ touches on the right point. It shouldn't be the job of the taxed to say how much is too much, it should be the job of those spending the money to justify the spending. Hubbuch starts out using a used car salesman's trick: "What payment can you afford?" Well, how about this? We start with zero taxes and everyone justify why they want a slice of the tax dollars. That doesn't really seem to happen in Illinois, and it definitely doesn't happen in Oak Park.


Posted: August 22nd, 2012 5:40 PM

A rule of thumb for property taxes is 2% of actual value. Presently, my taxes are 2.7% of actual value. Let's start by dropping to 2% of actual value. The problem with Oak Park and Illinois in general is that government got used to spending like drunken sailors when things were good, now they can't ratchet back spending. Other jurisdictions have been able to contain their spending. However, due to the constituencies in both our berg and the state, that doesn't seem possible.

Oak Park Transplant  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 5:26 PM

Your flippant retort suggesting I/we consider moving, hurt. And yes, sadly, we are.

Oak Park Transplant  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 5:22 PM

My wife and I moved to Oak Park in June 1998. Our property taxes were $7,200. The value of our home was within $10,000 of the home we moved from in Chicago. Our taxes there were $2,600. We moved for better schools. Our taxes this year are $16,000. That's 122% higher, or about 8.7% per year. The recession was hard. My income is only 71% higher than in 1998. Or having grown 5.1% per annum. My home value has fallen by 30%. In relative terms, I see my taxes as too high.


Posted: August 22nd, 2012 3:21 PM

So the question becomes is if property taxes were too low previously or are we spending too much now and where exactly is this money going? Our tax bill has increased 50% over seven years. I have not seen a 50% increase in the value add of services since first moving to OP. Combine that with lower home values and a shaky economy where every penny counts, homeowner's are likely to start asking questions about where the money is going...


Posted: August 22nd, 2012 3:15 PM

I find it odd that you want people to define what their property tax bill should be. Yet, the left can't ever seem to define what they mean by "fair share" when we discuss income taxes or who exactly is "wealthy." With that said, I agree with you that taxes in Oak Park are not outrageous and par for the course relative to other comparable suburbs. The issue is that many homeowners have seen their tax bills go up substantially with no appreciable increase in services... cont

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 2:45 PM

Further the Tax Policy Institute, Civic Federation and GASB )the accounting governing board) believes the investment rate assumption of 8.5% currently used is too little since historically its been 4-5%. Moody's uses 5.5%. The lower assumption may double the current unfunded amount to over $214 million. Making total debt $627 million. With cost shifting, now is the levy too much? Officials, and authors, fail to look down the road until a "Stockton situation" occurs.

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 2:38 PM

No, I got your message. But, maybe move was wrong. How much is too much? The tax five districts of Oak Park have unfunded pension liabilities (excluding health benefits) of $107,020,515. Total debt of over $521 million. Our current tax levy does'nt include Madigan's cost shifting. If today's levy is not too much. Will the levy be too much after shifting?

Susan Swatek  

Posted: August 21st, 2012 4:12 PM

Bravo to the blog author. Some times people need a tap to the forehead to listen up to the subject matter. Leadership with objectivity in society is very important. Listen to the blog author and enjoy the process people.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 20th, 2012 2:15 PM

Fiascos like "temporary" cuts in services that have lasted seven years, The DTOP Tif Bankruptcy, the Madison Ave disaster, the Berwyn snookering of OP on the shared Tif, the Tiger bonanza, idle commercial property, and continuous and near obscene expenditures to change DTOP (to what?), the Sertus and Madison Highland's financial amateurism, and more, were all missed in your two essays. OP-er's are not dumb. They don't listen to real estate puff pieces, village press releases, or amateur columnist that feed an overdose of Pollyanna each election year. This village needs more leadership and less patronizing from civic leaders; including you.

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