Re-Imagine OPRF's future

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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The Imagine OPRF Facilities Committee has spent many hours studying the current and future needs of OPRF High School and they should be commended for their hard work. Unfortunately, the solutions they propose are detrimental to the overall interests of the Oak Park and River Forest communities.

Property taxes have increased 160% in Oak Park and 72% in River Forest between the years 2000-2017. Our home values have not. While the District 200 school board graciously reminded us that they have restrained themselves with regard to increasing tax levels, we must remember the $100,000,000 plus of our money they have accumulated over the years. Considering recent changes in federal tax laws imposing a cap limiting property tax deductions and looming state of Illinois tax increases it is a fiscally challenging time to live in either village.

The Imagine OPRF plan is an astounding amount of money. An "estimated" current cost of $220,000,000 (likely to go much higher over the 10-year period) represents an expenditure of $8,180 for every household in Oak Park & River Forest. Even with a significant cash reserve, the Imagine project cannot be completed without a future additional tax referendum. This will be in addition to the already onerous tax obligations we currently have.

The new facility plan seems to confuse "want" with "need." It appears that approximately $67,000,000 is allocated to a new aquatics center and 59% of the estimated construction costs are related to physical education and athletics facilities. Approximately 16% of the budget estimate is earmarked for academics. We all have a "want" for children to have an opportunity to experience and be exposed to interesting and potentially life-changing experiences, but the primary goal of OPRF High School is to first satisfy the "need" for outstanding academics for all its students. Arts, physical education and other activities have great importance in a student's development but the Imagine OPRF proposal has its priorities in the wrong places. There must be a better balance.

No one will argue that the school should not address numerous issues and a comprehensive facility plan going forward is essential. But in preparing a facility plan for OPRF, it must do a better job of considering not only the needs of its students but also the community at large. It is not selfish for a resident to be concerned about the crushing tax burden in Oak Park and River Forest and its impact not only personally but to the community as well. The present and future fiscal environment and its impact on the social fabric of our two villages is literally the challenge we must address.  

Tell the D200 board that now is the time to Re-Imagine the future of OPRF.

Richard & Barbara Gorman, Dawn Brightfield, Kari Hayden, Jane Driscoll, Marie Jensen 

Oak Park 

David & Leslie Alderman, Meg Osman

River Forest

Reader Comments

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Marc Martinez from Oak Park  

Posted: November 8th, 2018 9:38 AM

I am disgusted by the notion that the board has the right to spend the $85 million in excess reserves that they have accumulated. That money was raised through an annual levy that exceeds the needs of the annual budget. It is excess taxes, not a slush fund at the board's discretion. The excess reserves are enough to cover an entire year's budget. Look at your property tax bill. The board is sitting on thousands of dollars of your money and now glibly assume they are free to spend it on a vanity project.

Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park  

Posted: November 8th, 2018 7:14 AM

So glad to see more taxpayers seeing this plan for what it is. We've been fighting this "pool" plan with some added facilities fixes for years. I agree, educational fixes FIRST. Then if any money left over for extras. This is a "want big pool plan" not a "need educational and equity plan". Thank you for your letter.

Ellen Edwards  

Posted: November 7th, 2018 9:55 PM

Excellent letter! Thanks

Jakob Eriksson from Oak Park  

Posted: November 7th, 2018 8:54 PM

I agree with the authors. The outrageous wish list for athletic facilities is completely out of touch.

Neal Buer  

Posted: November 7th, 2018 6:02 PM

Nice letter. Just to suggest that this project could be started with the $100 million in reserves shows that this board and this administration is out of touch with not only the residents of this district, but with reality. The elections for a new board can't come soon enough.

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