The free tax cut you won't get

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Property taxes in Oak Park have increased about 20 percent over the last 10 years, adjusted for inflation. Over the last five years, one third of homeowners have seen their property taxes increase by 25 percent or more. Ask yourself, has your income gone up 25 percent in the last five years? The trajectory of property tax growth in Oak Park is unsustainable. Your elected representatives have a rare opportunity to stem this out-of-control growth because of the expiration of an obscure taxing instrument called a "TIF." 

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is meant to set aside a block of property tax income for special projects, usually to help fund needed infrastructure in blighted areas. For the last few decades Oak Park has had two large TIF funds, one for Downtown Oak Park and one for the Madison Street area. These TIFs are set to expire soon. If these TIFs are allowed to lapse, and all of our taxing bodies limit their tax increases to the rate of inflation, property taxes will actually go down in Oak Park, by about 2 percent*. This will provide much needed property tax relief. 

This would be a free tax cut. Free because no taxing body will need to decrease or cut any services. Free because you will see tax relief in your next tax bill even as all of the taxing bodies increase their budgets to match inflation. 

But you won't see this tax cut. Already the various Oak Park taxing bodies are moving to capture the TIF funds, dramatically increasing their budgets on a year over year basis, some by as much as 10 percent. The rationale is that since you are already paying for the TIFs in your tax bill, you won't notice if those funds are redirected. 

The TIF funds are not being taken because there is a need; they are being taken because they can be taken. The taxing bodies are making the calculation that you won't notice. I am asking you to take notice. I am asking you to write the board members of these taxing bodies and ask them what their plans are for the TIF funds. Demand that they tell you how these funds will be used. Ask them if they understand how damaging the current property tax levels are to the community. 

* Note, the elementary schools and high school currently receive about 75 percent of the Downtown Oak Park TIF fund due to a legal agreement, and we cannot reasonably expect them to forego those funds. This calculation replaces that with a tax levy increase, and even allowing for that, we still see an approximate 2 percent cut in our total Oak Park property taxes.

Josh VanderBerg

Oak Park

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Reader Comments

6 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Kitty Conklin  

Posted: November 22nd, 2019 11:57 AM

Richard Gorman, Ken Watson, Tom McMillan and all other residents - Amy has a great idea and it's become reality! Here's the petition link: http://chng.it/9gdncgmK Please consider signing this as soon as possible. The boards continue with 2020 budget meetings next week, and our hope is that each board knows our thoughts as they sit down to meet! Also, please feel free to share this petition to your Oak Park friends and neighbors. Thanks everyone!

Richard Gorman  

Posted: November 20th, 2019 8:30 PM

The silence should concern all of us. We're slinking out of the Village. Insane property taxes that depress our home values, create an environment where no sane person with economic self interest would remain in OP/RF. The smart and financially nimble are leaving the village. Quietly. Makes sense, pity those of us who are left behind. I suggest the taxing bodies that will take advantage of the demise of the TIF, at the literal expense of the community, are willing to further damage the economic and social fabric of this community for their narrow selfish interests. The money we are talking about is first ours, not theirs, and to claim and spend it as "theirs" is an example of the worst abuse of government and financial responsibility to the community it serves. Pathetic, and these actions by the various taxing bodies are against all of the supposed goals of the OP/RF community.

Amy Srodon from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2019 5:43 AM

@Josh, how about setting up a Change.org petition that goes directly to the contacts you've listed? As important as this is, some people may be too busy to send multiple emails, and they might be more likely to sign an online petition that's already written. I'm happy to help with this and get it circulated/publicized. I did the first Change.org petition when an OPRF senior wasn't being allowed to walk with her class due to medical absences, and the family won with all the attention and negative publicity for the school. PM me on Facebook.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 19th, 2019 7:38 PM

Clearly the managers who run our schools, libraries and township have no idea and no skills regarding how to run an organization on a budget that is already generous, so they grab at everything extra they can. It is time we systematically replace them.

Josh Vanderberg  

Posted: November 19th, 2019 4:56 PM

If you'd like to contact our various taxing bodies, please email them directly: D97: d97board@op97.org D200: BOE@oprfhs.org Village: board@oak-park.us Park District: pdop_board@pdop.org The Library: board@oppl.org Township: ckeenan@oakparttownship.org

Ken Watson  

Posted: November 19th, 2019 1:11 PM

Agreed, Josh. Excessive property taxes rob homeowners twice: on our annual tax bills and in the form of continually depressed property values. We should be reining in nonessential spending, not allowing for a free cash grab.

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