Live within your budgets

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Dear board members of D97, D200, park district, library, and village,

Forgo expiring TIF money. It's not yours. Your budgets have long been and remain ample, with no undue financial stress, yet you maintain an insatiable appetite for new tax money. Live within your budgets! Opt only for nominal levy increases tied to inflation. The money from the expiring TIFs needs to be returned to the taxpayers you are causing undue financial stress. 

We need a tax cut. Forgoing expiring TIF money is an easy way of doing that without having to make the budget cuts you seem to abhor.

Kudos to the Oak Park Village Board for choosing not to capture the approximate $114,000,000 in new EAV, and holding their levy increase to 3 percent.

What have the rest of you been up to?

District 97: Already has money galore!

2017 - $15.9 million tax increase ($13.3 million referendum, $2.6 million from preventable windfall associated with referendum) 

2019 - $5.7 million from expiring TIFs ($5.3 million from expiring TIFs plus $400K from new taxable property) 

$21,600,000 = amount of increased D97 taxes in just the past 2.5 years, has an insatiable appetite for more tax money, proven unwillingness of the board to live within a budget and impose fiscal discipline. The board couldn't run their own personal budgets this way.

District 200: Already has money galore! Seeks $800,000 from expiring TIFs and new taxable property. Already overtaxed us for a decade, building up a $125 million surplus, much of which is still on hand. Has aspirations of a $218,000,000 master facility overhaul including a $63 million pool. Insatiable desire for more money, no appetite for doing the work of a board to impose fiscal discipline. Could not run their own personal budget this way.

Park District: Seeks $315,000 from expiring TIFS and a 1.9% levy increase, congratulates itself for increasing the levy by two-tenths of a percent less compared to increases the past two years. Hint: don't take the $315,000, live within your existing budget and levy increase. Look for reduction of PD services redundant with those offered at nominal charge by private organizations such as OPYBS, AYSO (which offer need-based help and pay fees to the park district), and by D97 and D200 programs and summer camps.

Library: Seeks a 9.98% levy increase or about $700,000, including money from expiring TIFs even though library construction debt will be paid off in 2020. That has been running approximately $1,000,000 per year. The $1,000,000 in tax money that has been collected toward that debt will continue to flow to the library in perpetuity despite no debt expense against it after 2020. The library wants to keep that $1 million per year and take $700,000 in expiring TIF money. And the library perceives the need to build a recording studio? In an era where kids can record cheaply at home and where OPRF High School already has a broadcast facility? How many do we need? What about indoor skydiving, a merry-go-round and a petting zoo? Stop the concierge services mentality. Forgo the TIF money, live with a modest levy increase and reduce your tax levy by $1 million per year once construction debt payments end.

$7,515,000 - the combined amount of expiring TIF tax money to be taken by D97, D200, park district, and library, and it does not include levy increases!

Your have-our-cake-and-eat-it-too approach to taxing is harming real people. It is working palpably against diversity, equity, property values, and people's ability to stay in their own home. It is causing people to avoid buying homes here. It tears at the fabric of a community that still has third and fourth generations living here. That sense of community is being decimated. So why are you doing this?

Jack Powers

Oak Park

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Reader Comments

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Jim Coughlin  

Posted: December 3rd, 2019 1:57 AM

The Village budget depends on additional revenue from fees and fines which increase in 2020 by significantly more than 3%.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: December 2nd, 2019 10:23 PM

Neal Buer You are getting the idea although I think the entire town become's a town that requires an upper income level to move in to. With increased taxes, that cost is added to apartment rentals so the cost goes up not making it affordable unless you have a larger income. The current home owners on average can not afford the continual tax increase so they move out and the upper income buy homes at a discounted rate which then creates a supply and demand which raises the cost of each home until you have a town that is costing a lot in taxes and has an above average cost for a home to buy. This will not create a housing crash like it did across the nation. This is just a matter of people who have the income can move in to Oak Park

Neal Buer  

Posted: December 2nd, 2019 7:48 PM

Maybe I'm cynical, but it seems there is a different strategy being carried out here. Maybe the tax strategy is to force out people who can't pay the high real estate, and bring in people who can. As this strategy is carried out, taxes will rise as the property values continue to fall. At some point, the prices will be low enough, where smart investors will buy, work to slash the taxes, and watch values rise again. Then, Oak Park will be like it was 100 years ago - a village of broad lawns and narrow minds. Rich people, and maybe even republicans.

Kitty Conklin  

Posted: December 2nd, 2019 6:15 AM

Jack, thank you for a great rundown. What I find really pathetic in this community are the number of residents who are strapped by the high costs of living in OP, yet who are afraid to speak up. And there are many.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: November 30th, 2019 1:38 PM

Tom MacMillan I agree with you. As for the working long hours, that started slowly coming into the work place decades ago. People do not always notice things because they are entertained with craft beer, food trucks and the latest cell phone. When that happens, who has time to pay attention to hire another 100 thousand dollar position has been created and that means taxes continue to go up. The only reason why people are now complaining is because there have been enough people to recognize that there just is not enough money left over like there use to be. To unravel this mess, is to take each board and have it demonstrate if it has value to the amount of what it costs tax payers

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 30th, 2019 10:49 AM

@ Tommy - the majority do not want to be over taxed here. The majority have been too busy working long hours to pay their taxes. The majority mistakenly figured that elections for what seemed like dog catcher level local leader roles could never do any harm, so they skipped the elections. We get out of this situation when the majority actually starts voting and gets rid of the incredibly lame leaders who are destroying the town with their tax increases.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: November 29th, 2019 11:42 PM

Monica Sheehan Thank you for the link. What I do not understand is although people are trying to impress upon the different board's does not mean they have to do it. Since I have no idea how politics work or the boards, it would seem that if 1 thousand tax payers showed up at a board meeting and asked are you going to take the money or not because if they do then taxes will not go down, then that seems like a story news outlets would cover

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: November 29th, 2019 9:24 PM

Tommy McCoy, Copied below is a link to an online petition aimed at encouraging all of our taxing bodies to return the TIF funds to taxpayers. Nearly 1000 Oak Park taxpayers have already signed it. Please read it and consider signing it and sharing the link with others. Thank you.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: November 29th, 2019 8:24 PM

Monica Sheehan from the few comments it seems every one is in favor of lowering taxes although that seems to not be able to happen if the board's are going to take money. Why would a group of people want to take money when the majority of tax payers do not want this to happen and how can it be stopped if it will really lower taxes so this does not happen because if there is no way to stop it then you have to accept it

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: November 29th, 2019 7:45 PM

Excellent summary, Jack. Another key point is that the increased levies, as a result of taxing bodies taking TIF funds, will hike their respective taxing baselines forever more. Our taxing bodies should forego the TIF funds as well as the new construction taxes; both actions would lower our taxes. It's been more than a year since the Oak Park Taxing Bodies Efficiency Task Force released its report, underscoring the critical need to reduce taxes in the village. It would be great if our elected officials read it and followed its recommendations. Here's the link to the report.

Leslie Sutphen  

Posted: November 29th, 2019 3:21 PM

Well said Jack. I don't understand why these taxing bodies think this money belongs to them and not to us beleaguered tax payers. Houses are selling very slowly in Oak Park. We folks who want to retire can't afford to stay here even if we want to. Why keep grabbing money out of our pockets?

Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park  

Posted: November 29th, 2019 3:07 PM

Jack, you covered everything. The TIF dollar amount that could be split amongst taxing bodies is astounding. Just having some tax relief would help all the taxpayers. The taxing bodies DONT NEED this money. None are in need. They are just plane greedy. If they needed the money a Referendum would already be being talked about. Again, greed.

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