Oak Park tax levy increase held at 3 percent

Cuts and draw down on budget reserves helps trustees reach target

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Board of Trustees approved a 2019 budget at its Dec. 11 meeting that increases the tax levy by 3 percent.

That puts the levy increase at $959,817 for a total levy of $32 million.

The board was able to keep the tax levy increase lower this year by drawing down $1.4 million in available cash reserves from the general fund.

That reduces the fund balance from $12.7 million to $11.3 million.

Oak Park resident David Gentry testified before the board, saying that without the use of cash reserves, the levy increase would have been 7.4 percent.

He quoted the budget, which states: "It is unlikely that the village can continue to limit property tax increases to 3 percent annually going forward unless there are increases to other revenues (such as sales tax or similar), there is a dramatic reduction in non-core service support (e.g. property tax support for grant funding agreements or services provided to other taxing bodies) or there is a dramatic reduction in core municipal services."

The budget was approved on a 5 to 2 vote, with trustees Deno Andrews and Dan Moroney casting the dissenting votes.

Moroney said he was disappointed with the budget because of an unwillingness to get the levy increase down without tapping into budget reserves.

"We owe it to ourselves … to reduce the deficit to a million [dollars]," he said, calling the tax burden "a death by a thousand cuts."

"I'm not in favor of this budget because I don't think we tried to get it to where it needs to be," Moroney said.

The 3 percent goal was established by the Taxing Bodies Efficiency Task Force, which was established by the Oak Park Board of Trustees earlier this year to find ways to limit the tax burden on homeowners.

Trustee Jim Taglia said he was comfortable spending reserve funds, calling it a "good thing," because the board did not use money from the reserves in the previous fiscal year.

He noted that trustees have scheduled a study session for next year to explore the idea of priority-based budgeting, a strategy for determining the most vital needs in the village and prioritizing spending accordingly.

"I think priority-based budgeting would help us address those concerns," he said.

Andrews said he believes "taxes are out of control" in Oak Park and there needs to be a better effort to rein in spending.

"We got a decent start this budget season, but we didn't come anywhere near where needed to go," he said.

He warned that the fund reserves "are there for a reason" adding that he believes the economy could be headed for a recession.

"That's what you save for," Andrews said.

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb noted that about half of the $32 million levy covers fixed costs like police and fire pensions and debt service. The 3 percent levy increase equals about $900,000, he said. That's about $25 more each from taxpayers with homes valued at about $300,000 to $400,000, he said.

"I think we're doing the best we can," he said.

Trustee Simone Boutet said that the budget process has been torturous because of the struggle of looking at and debating individual items to cut from the budget. Boutet added that a lot of the cost of the municipal budget comes from worker salaries, and the village board should consider looking more closely for cuts there next year because of "multiple layers of management" working at village hall.


Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and OakPark.com. We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

17 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: December 17th, 2018 5:21 PM

Minnesotans are doing just fine because their property tax rate would result in $5,000-$10,000 property tax reduction for the average Oak Parker. They're also just fine using the lower (after itemized/standard deductions) federal taxable income as a starting point in determining taxable income, whereas Illinois uses federal AGI. But I suppose casual observations carry more weight than actual numbers, so carry on.

Joel A. Schoenmeyer  

Posted: December 17th, 2018 11:42 AM

Maureen, my definition of "rich" is anyone who makes more money than I do. :-)

Kline Maureen  

Posted: December 17th, 2018 10:38 AM

Joel and Nick - I think Jeffrey just wants the RICH to pay more. By that I assume he means anyone whose name (first or last) is Rich (or contains "Rich" as part of the name) Fortunately for you both, you seem to be exempt from this. If I'm mistaken, perhaps Jeffrey will explain a little further what he means by "rich"

Joel A. Schoenmeyer  

Posted: December 17th, 2018 8:54 AM

Jeffrey, you have to look at each state's overall tax burden (income tax AND property tax AND sales tax). The tax burden in Illinois is already slightly higher than in Minnesota -- and somewhat higher than Michigan, Iowa, and Indiana. Besides the question of what we are getting for our additional tax dollars, there's the question of staying competitive with other states (and keeping business and high-income individuals here, since they are all that stands between Illinois and insolvency).

Nick Polido  

Posted: December 17th, 2018 8:19 AM

" Illinois''s punitive and unfair flat tax"... Maybe you should actually read your linked story, or better yet, understand the difference between these two states.......

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: December 16th, 2018 10:04 PM

Oak Park's tax problems are exacerbated by Illinois''s punitive and unfair flat tax. MN is doing just fine since they started taxing the rich proportionally. https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2018/12/13/illinois-looks-to-minnesota-for-budget-help/?fbclid=IwAR3h6LoOtoTBPFr72pGo9oX7XN43rjniREyn_zdyrchQnu2F9CQiV2443uk

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: December 16th, 2018 4:57 PM

Is he a Republican or a Democrat? Does he support the GOP agenda? Does he think all the new multi-story apartment buildings are good for Oak Park? Would he have voted for the "Madison Diet"? What Village services would he cut to compensate for tax cuts? Would new tax cuts benefit all Villagers equally, or would the richest benefit the most? Does he support AA-T for another term? Does he think services for the neediest and most vulnerable Oak Parkers should be reduced - and if so, how?

Bruce Kline  

Posted: December 14th, 2018 7:06 PM

Mike Hanline has my vote right now.

Corey Gimbel from Oak Park  

Posted: December 14th, 2018 6:52 PM

@Mike Hanline - Your comment about rolling up your sleeves and saving millions, " Let me get in there and roll up my sleeves--I guarantee I'll find millions to slash within a day. The idea that there's nothing we can do about annual tax increases is both unsustainable and ridiculous. Remember this when it's time to vote." got my attention. Why aren't you putting your money where your mouth is and running for office in the coming election? Dan and Deno would like some help in their worthy efforts to control the spending of "OUR" precious tax dollars. Let me be the first to express a desire to hear the explicit details of your slashing and to encourage your candidacy.

Robert Milstein from Oak Park  

Posted: December 14th, 2018 4:28 PM

In reality, the levy will be higher. The State will add to the levy to cover for those who do not pay their taxes. Even a 0% levy would be about 3%. I and another Trustee voted against one budget between 2003 and 2007. It doesn't stop the increases. The budget process is filled with unknowns , and relies too heavily on those with vested interests. Budgets should be zero based , and every department should have to justify every dollar they ask for. The Trustees who voted no have also supported other fee increases, taxes and building projects that will increase property taxes. A blanket budget reduction across departments does not help. Sacred cows, such as the Housing Center are always going to be funded. Their history is important to remember, and they play a vital role currently, but they expect to be funded and they expect no one to question the funding of their mission. Sacred cows are supposed to get what they want. But...times change, and every dollar in taxes collected and spent must be reevaluated.

Bob Pawlowski  

Posted: December 12th, 2018 9:54 PM

How do they get away with this? D200 is the Chicago outfit repackaged.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: December 12th, 2018 10:33 AM

We have only two trustees who understand the actual mood around town. Looking for cuts? They could have held the increase to 1.5% by simply cutting funds to the useless housing center. Not very hard to look and see that.

Aaron Smith  

Posted: December 11th, 2018 9:59 PM

Thank you Dan and Deno. A few more people with your mindset would be good for Oak Park. We also need to stop this pension madness.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: December 11th, 2018 6:05 PM

I hope we can add a couple of trustees, like Bridgett Baron and Cory Wesley, to support Deno and Dan. I am disappointed that Simone didn't vote no also.

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: December 11th, 2018 4:57 PM

First, kudos to Deno Andrews and Dan for continuing to fight the good fight and setting the tone that will eventually need to be adopted if we are to remain solvent in the long run. And second-- this made me nearly spit out my coffee when I saw it-- are they seriously JUST NOW thinking about "a study session for next year to explore the idea of priority-based budgeting, a strategy for determining the most vital needs in the village and prioritizing spending accordingly??!!!" Isn't prioritization THE POINT of budgeting in the first place??!!!

Mike Hanline  

Posted: December 11th, 2018 2:52 PM

This current board is feckless. Let me get in there and roll up my sleeves--I guarantee I'll find millions to slash within a day. The idea that there's nothing we can do about annual tax increases is both unsustainable and ridiculous. Remember this when it's time to vote.

David Rechs  

Posted: December 11th, 2018 2:33 PM

Not nearly good enough. This exceeds the rate of inflation. It should be a tax reduction, to undo many years of unrestrained tax increases!!

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad