Overwhelming referenda wins for District 97

Newly elected board members breathe a sigh of relief

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

At around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night, a crowd of at least 60 people, virtually all of them supporters of the two District 97 referenda that appeared on the ballot, erupted in cheers and applause inside of Robinson's Ribs, 848 Madison St.

Unlike last November — when the outcome of Oak Park and River Forest High School's facilities referendum, which failed by less than 40 votes, took weeks to finalize — the outcomes of these two D97 referenda were clear even before the votes from all 37 precincts were counted on the Cook County Clerk's website.

And the margins of victory for both measures were overwhelming. The operating funds referendum, which called for a 1 percent limiting rate tax extension in order to generate a projected $13.3 million in additional revenue passed by a nearly 10-point margin, 54 percent to 46 percent.

The $57.5 million capital referendum, issued in order to fund various building maintenance and expansion projects, passed by nearly 20 points, 60 percent to 40 percent.

The last D97 referendum — a limiting rate increase issued in 2011, which raised around $7 million in operating funds for the district — passed by almost 10 points, 54 percent to 46 percent.

All of the district's sitting school board members were at the Robinson's watch party, with D97 Board President Jim Gates and Board Vice President Amy Felton thanking their fellow board members, along with district administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents and community members.

"[We thank you for] all of the things you've sacrificed for the kids in this community," said Gates, who opted against running for reelection this year. "All of the good things in my life, every single good thing, came because I found my way to Oak Park."

"I just don't know if there's anything else I can be prouder of," said board member Holly Spurlock, who noted that she spent hours responding to Facebook queries about the referenda's intricacies with residents. She thanked Vote Yes! committee members for building "a LEGO foundation" of knowledge that was based on district information.

"What I'm most excited about is that the turnout was really high," said Vote Yes! spokesman Jassen Strokosch. "For a consolidated election, this was a really good turnout, so that makes me feel good. No one wants to win with low turnout."

D97 Supt. Carol Kelley said that she believes that the successful referenda are precursors to more comprehensive progress within the district.

"This wasn't just a vote for the referendum," she said. "It's also the community saying, 'We are behind this vision for every student to have positive learning environments that are equitable, inclusive and focused on the whole child.' I am grateful … I think Oak Park is a historic community, but we are in the process of making history and I feel in my gut that this is an exciting time for the entire community."

Newly elected D97 board members Rob Breymaier and Keecia Broy both breathed sighs of relief upon learning of the successful ballot measures.

"Obviously, the hard work starts now," said Breymaier, who with nearly 20 percent of vote, was the most popular of the eight candidates running for the three open seats on the D97 board.

"It's definitely better that the referenda passed because otherwise my life would have been trying to figure out what are we going to cut. We can work from a district that is strong and stable to do the things we need to do to promote equity, and make sure that we have the best schools possible for every one our kids. Now we can do that."

Broy garnered around 16 percent of the vote, roughly the same percentage as the second-highest vote-getter, Katherine Murray-Liebl.

"I am humbled by this experience and excited to get to work with the people of Oak Park," she said. "I didn't have any yard signs or collateral, so that was a huge risk. I was definitely optimistic, but I wasn't super excited. Now that I'm here, I'm thrilled and honored."

Broy, Breymaier and Murray-Liebl will join Rupa Datta, Holly Spurlock, Bob Spatz and Jim O'Connor on the school board. 

Email: michael@oakpark.com

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Reader Comments

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Nick A Binotti  

Posted: April 13th, 2017 5:21 PM

One last note on the referenda: After reviewing the "Committee to Support Oak Park Schools" report filed with the state board of elections (see: http://bit.ly/2nJIFzZ), it's unfortunate the pro-referenda group was not as enthusiastic about supporting Oak Park businesses. $5,000 for signs from a company in NH, printing services from NY, promotional items from TX and OH. At least their strategists were from Bolingbrook. Is there some rule I'm not aware of that precludes political campaigns from doing business with local shops? Otherwise, seeking a tax hike on a captive audience while outsourcing your marketing services to out of state vendors (probably based on lowest cost), seems a bit contradictory.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 11th, 2017 2:12 PM

Jason - I was referring to the three previous times Jassen has shared wrong info about how the property tax works. Each time we discussed it and he goes back to the same wrong cheat sheet he uses. The perfect storm of ugly tax ramifications is coming next, where we raise property taxes for non-essential luxuries, then we also have to raise taxes to subsidize keeping people here in town who can no longer afford it. OP just got a lot less affordable and OMG, the inequality of it all will be discovered. Your idea would have us are going in that direction. The die is cast now.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: April 11th, 2017 12:18 PM

@Tom your last reply is to Jassen yet you seem to reference my post or maybe his not sure but I don't think there's much value in this argument at this point. The vote happened and is over so how about we discuss what options there might be to help those most heavily impacted by this increase? I know there are programs in OP to help seniors lower their taxes but not sure if there's help for lower income renters that might be impacted. There's a number of newly elected officials that might be interested in discussing how funds could be set aside to help these people stay in OP. This isn't about helping those just complaining because they don't like it but a real way to offer assistance to those really hurt by this. Any thoughts?

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 11th, 2017 11:20 AM

@Jassen -- for a third time, your repeated spin on rental property taxes is childlike in your refusal to accept that renters do not get home owner exemptions the way home owners do. It would be just another Yes supporter lie coming out, but I think you actually just can't comprehend how a discount some people get is not being given to other people and that is unfair to renters. If that is insulting, try to not post inaccuracies.

Jassen Strokosch  

Posted: April 10th, 2017 8:23 PM

@Jason - to clarify. Since 2011, following an ordinance change and after being completely phased in, the tax rate for rental property, multi-family etc is the same 10% as residential, regardless of the number of units. The discussion of rentals having a lower rate/tax break is relative to other commercial property. @Tom, I realize you are upset about the outcome, but to characterize the Yes crowd as "taking what we wanted from everyone else" and spreading "lies and more BS" is terribly unfair. You and I may disagree on what was best for Oak Park, but that doesn't justify insulting us as some homogeneous group. Some of us may be more like those you say you are defending than you think. For example, I am a renter that can barely afford to stay in Oak Park and have empty-nest parents that are still here, but we found reasons to support this effort. As for telling us to slink back under a rock till the next referendum, I will be at hundreds of school board meeting, village board meetings and other community events in the years ahead, as I have been for years. I will be actively involved in many other issues and elections. I hope to see you there. I work hard, just like hundreds of others around this amazing Village, to try and make Oak Park a better place. I see nothing productive in being insulting to others that claim to support the same effort. Healthy debate is wonderful and I am always thankful for forums like this where many ideas can be shared. But lets also remember that we are all neighbors and real people as well.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: April 9th, 2017 4:03 PM

Hey Jason I agree with you. Hope you spread the word about our system of government to the WJ editorial board (you know Dan and Ken) and all their apologists who insist President Trump "isn't our President" or some similar nonsense. Or does the US system of government only work when people who think as you do get their way? Just curious. I am enjoying a beautiful day in ChiTown, and wish you well.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2017 3:41 PM

Every day is a great day for me Jason. I get how elections work. What I don't get is guys like you who think they are some sort of gift to humanity because you voted YES. The election went your way, but you can't just quietly enjoy it. You have to share misinformation and then publicly pat yourself on the back for helping the children somehow, when you also share how it costs you nothing. And you admit people are hurt by this vote, but that is OK with you because you sympathize, whatever that means. Its a weird selfish trend in town. Take with one hand, pat yourself on the back with the other hand.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: April 9th, 2017 2:54 PM

Hey @Tom welcome to the US system of govt. The way things work here is that we vote for things and sometimes people come out on their side and sometimes they don't. Unless a vote has 100% approval there will always be negative impacts to someone. That's just the way life works. I am personally enjoying a beautiful day in OP and I hope you have a great day as well.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2017 2:41 PM

It is important to Jason's that he points out to all that he wants to make sure, by forcing others to pay their money, that we have the best education here. Best is defined by total dollars spent, whether they are spent well or not is immaterial. Jason also sympathizes with anyone whose household budget he helped destroy, while the impact to him was next to nothing. Luckily Jason does not have to feel he sacrificed anything.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: April 9th, 2017 2:01 PM

My understanding is that it's the multiplier that's different for rental buildings. I have personally felt the reverse impact of this and it was heavily discussed at the D97 meeting I attended where questions about this were asked. Can I point you to a very specific document on this the answer is no so feel free to continue to get all worked up about it. I voted Yes even though it won't directly impact me much at all. I have one child in HS and one already at Julian so the impact to me personally is next to nothing but I believe in making sure all the students in OP get the best education they can which applies to every income level. I do sympathize with those that are lower income who might be forced out and my hope is there are ways to help those people stay here as they are valued members of our community.

Katie O'Malley Branand  

Posted: April 9th, 2017 1:48 PM

The tax breakdown for OP properties can be found here. http://www.oakparktownship.org/sites/default/files/downloads/ASSR-15-Oak%20Park%20Tax%20Breakout%202014%20vs%202013_0.pdf. We have 21k households in OP.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: April 9th, 2017 1:02 PM

My understanding is that rental buildings consisting of more than six apartments are assessed the same as residential single family homes: 10% of market value.If so, Jason Cohen's contention about the impact on renters is delusional BS. Any landlords or realtors out there can enlighten us with the truth?

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: April 9th, 2017 11:12 AM

@ Tom Mac:: Wouldnt assessment on multi unit buildings in comparison to single family buildings be higher because there is no home owner exemption to multi or income producing building?

Kline Maureen  

Posted: April 9th, 2017 10:15 AM

Everyone will feel SOME pain, particularly with the 2nd installment in AUGUST when the full-year increase for 2016 will be applied. Many homeowner's will have to come up with an additional $2000 or more. OUCH! All so D97 can increase its operating levy by more than 27%, by $13,344,415 - from about $53,000,000 up to a new operating levy of more than $66,481,000 - that is a HUGE increase. But hey, those YES votes protected our D97 schools from utter collapse so let's all be happy.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2017 9:14 AM

You don't have to slather lies and more BS on it Jason. Misinformation about assessments being lower on apartments is gross too. You and the whole crowd of Yes supporters took what you wanted to take from everyone else, leave it at that and slink back under a rock until your next crisis referendum. Hold the election on the day the tax bills come if you think your support is so solid.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: April 9th, 2017 6:51 AM

If people decided not to vote that's their call. Let's stop the nonsense that the info wasn't available or it was made deliberately hard for people to understand and that's why this passed. There were street signs everywhere, people at the trains, articles in every local paper, many many meetings at the schools, and FB posts all over the place. If people made the decision not to vote or educate themselves that's on them. Let's also not assume that if more people voted the results would be any different. As far as the renters are concerned the impact will be less and that's a fact. The tax increase will be the same for those rental properties but the assessment amount for rental properties is much less so the impact won't be as significant. I am sure some impact will be felt but it will less for them then regular homeowners. This was a fair democratic process and all the info was available to anyone that was willing to spend a few minutes researching it.

Peter Hermann from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2017 8:45 PM

@Margy Feley: So sorry to hear about your situation. I got teary eyed reading your post. But I'm certain, that you will find a great community where everybody is welcome AND has a lower crime rate. Here is a heartwarming argument a passionate D97 organizer shared with me: "Why should the person with a fixed income or a family with one household income (mom stays home with the kids), dictate the quality of our schools?" It's amazing how the elite liberals roll, isn't it?

Bruce Kline  

Posted: April 8th, 2017 3:07 PM

I have to agree with many of the sentiments expressed so far. Oak Park will become a community of long term transients and renters. By this I mean our future neighbors will come and live here when their kids are school age and "rent" our schools. Once, the kids are graduated, "school rent" paid, off they go!

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: April 8th, 2017 2:57 PM

@ Margy Feley: "you are only welcome if you have lots of monmey" Partially true, and I might add if you can get out on top and find someone to buy your home. If you stayed 34 years you might have stayed to long. I have friends who own boats. They say the best day of a boat owners life is selling their boat. The second best day of a boat owners life is buying their boat. Same might be true of home ownership in Oak Park. Trust me Margy, there are near perfect places to live outside of Oak Park. For half the cost and 3/4 the worry.

Margy Feley  

Posted: April 8th, 2017 2:29 PM

Reading Peter Hermann's and Barbara Purington's comments made me sad because that person they are talking about is me. I have decided that within the year, it's time to sell the old family home and move to where my taxes are within my budget to maintain my modest lifestyle. I have a good retirement income and nest egg but it's not enough. 34 years ago I believed and invested in Oak Park when others were fleeing to the western suburbs. Have to laugh that Oak Park calls itself a "welcoming" community. You're only welcome here if you've got lots of money.

Barbara Joan  

Posted: April 8th, 2017 10:31 AM

"Do you lower your retirement contributions, risking your meager nest egg in your twilight years?,, .If you retire from D97 D90 D200, you get lifelong health benefits for you and your family on top of a sweet yearly pay out for life. Taxpayers have had enough of cries from educators that they aren't paid fairly.

Barbara Purington  

Posted: April 8th, 2017 10:23 AM

@Peter Herman: spot on! $50 or $60 a month to those living on fixed incomes aka retired folks, can be a budget breaker. Many referendum supporters pay lip service to social and ethnic diversity in OP, but in reality care only about their own interests. Many are parents of young families at a place in their careers where earning power is more fluid (on a career path to increased earnings). They are solely concerned with their property values and the quality of education for their special snowflakes. They like the idea of living in an elite community because it makes them feel more special. The rest of us can leave if we can't afford to live here. Also, I've seen it play out that when some families become more affluent, find their tastes have changed or realize the enormity of taxes on old housing stock or want to be closer to grandparents, up and relocate to distant suburbs like Mundelein, Glen Ellyn, North Barrington, or out of state where they can get more for their dollar: i.e. larger lot size with acreage, more pastoral surroundings, newer, bigger homes. OP can be a transitional locality for young couples who resided in Lakeview or River North apts. and condos after they started a family. They support school referenda, then depart leaving the rest of us with the burdensome tax increases,they formerly supported.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2017 9:50 AM

Yes Nick, but the children will have their tap dance class. And little Janie is the third tree from the right in the Bravo play.

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: April 7th, 2017 8:03 PM

@Peter - You comment brings to mind the zero sum game as it pertains to taxes and family budgets. You question how the "single mom/waitress" will afford the added tax. But don't forget the income level above her - her actual customers - may cut back on dining out to afford that tax hike, meaning less tips for her. So your single mom/waitress pays twice in reduced income and added expenses. And if folks don't cut back on such "luxuries" as dining out, what do you cut? Do you lower your retirement contributions, risking your meager nest egg in your twilight years? I hope not. Do you consider the referendum your charitable contribution for the year? Some folks might have no other choice. Do you avoid shopping local to save on sales tax? Never forget the zero sum game with taxes...what one group gets, another goes without.

Adrian Marquez  

Posted: April 7th, 2017 3:40 PM

For anyone interested, Sarah Anzia, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of California Berkeley (who I think is from River Forest originally) has written a book titled TIMING AND TURNOUT and subtitled: "HOW OFF-CYCLE ELECTIONS FAVOR ORGANIZED GROUPS" (2014). A description of her book: Public policy in the United States is the product of decisions made by more than 500,000 elected officials, and the vast majority of those officials are elected on days other than Election Day. And because far fewer voters turn out for off-cycle elections, that means the majority of officials in America are elected by a politically motivated minority of Americans. Sarah F. Anzia is the first to systemically address the effects of election timing on political outcomes, and her findings are eye-opening. The low turnout for off-cycle elections, Anzia argues, increases the influence of organized interest groups like teachers' unions and municipal workers. While such groups tend to vote at high rates regardless of when the election is held, the low turnout in off-cycle years enhances the effectiveness of their mobilization efforts and makes them a proportionately larger bloc. Throughout American history, the issue of election timing has been a contentious one. Anzia's book traces efforts by interest groups and political parties to change the timing of elections to their advantage, resulting in the electoral structures we have today. Ultimately, what might seem at first glance to be mundane matters of scheduling are better understood as tactics designed to distribute political power, determining who has an advantage in the electoral process and who will control government at the municipal, county, and state levels.

Al Rossell  

Posted: April 7th, 2017 3:20 PM

You need to balance taxes with good schools and amenities. Just like to share that our first real estate transaction since the referendum passed has bombed out and struggling to keep two more together. Once people realize how excessive the increase is they are getting nervous or cant qualify. And did someone say 900 per diem on travel. What a steal The way i figure room 300 cabs 100 breakfast 30 lunch 45 dinner 65 booze 360 = $900

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 7th, 2017 2:15 PM

The referendum was specifically done during an election where very few voters were likely to turn out. The wording on the referendum was specifically written to be as confusing and unclear as possible. All the communication on it was controlled by the school. Renters are being told repeatably by supporters that its almost like free manna from heaven if this passes, with little to no mention of the true cost. The process sucks and the voters are not to blame, they are victims. Shame on the supporters and the school's leadership.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: April 7th, 2017 10:50 AM

Peter: I certainly agree with many of your sentiments. I believe as you do, that this outrageous tax increase will be devastating for many of our economically more vulnerable members of our community. But I also believe a democracy gets the leaders and taxes it deserves. Almost 25K eligible voters stayed home this election. To paraphrase a recent Tribune columnist: "we all talk incessantly about President Trump, but in reality President Joe Blow of the local school board, probably has a more immediate effect on our daily lives." The point is obvious: local politics has a much more immediate effect on our day to day lives than national politics. And in turn, we, the citizens, can have a much bigger effect on our local politics, than our national politics. The D97 referendum is a perfect example. Yet most of our citizens chose to stay home and not vote. I have no sympathy for those who chose not to vote if they subsequently complain about the economic burden of their property taxes. You get what you vote for - or not.

Peter Hermann from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2017 11:44 PM

Living in this community for 22 years now, I'm still amazed at the insensitivity of your paper. You're posting a photo of folks exuberantly celebrating something that is really painful to others. Do you realize that there are people in this community who will experience incredible hardship, not knowing how in the world they'll come up with an additional $50 or $60 a month? District 97 referendum showed once again how the liberal elitists roll: Pushing through a 9% property tax increase with trumpian scare tactics and complete ignorance how this will affect those with financial limitations, the blue collar families, seniors who raised their families and lived here all their lives, single moms, waitresses, yoga instructors, artists.... Come to think of it, this is a really good time to dump my liberal membership card and find another place to live.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: April 6th, 2017 8:50 PM

I too am skeptical. Our public servants just can not seem to say NO to any of the "latest best" thing. No matter the cost. The answer is spend and then tax. Always. And why not? We the public seem to always agree to hand out another fistful of dollars. We are like the parents of an addicted child: we just can not say no, and the child can not accept no. Both need serious therapy (and a dose of NO!) I can hardly wait to see what gruberizations will be used for the next D97 (or D200 for that matter) referendum. I suspect it will be sooner than later.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: April 6th, 2017 6:19 PM

Just to be clear, the $900 per diem for travel reimbursement is for OPRFHS D200, not the elementary schools D97. Also, perhaps it could be clarified whether this amount includes airfare if necessary. I'm not saying I approve, but if airfare is included as part of the per diem, it might not be as outrageous as it seems. Perhaps more clarification on this would be helpful. But at any rate, specifically this is NOT a D97 issue.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2017 5:48 PM

It is important to realize that every dollar spent on the per diem is helping the children. The quality of education is directly related to the thread count on the pillows and the tastiness of the dinner for the board members when they travel god knows where learning new ways to spend tax payer funds.

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: April 6th, 2017 4:32 PM

Barbara, you are correct about the $900 per day OPRF "no questions asked" travel reimbursement. It is an excessively high dollar amount. In fact, one school board member stated at the February 14, 2017 school board meeting that $500 was closer to the average per diem locally. Regardless, that member and the rest of the Board voted unanimously to approve the $900 amount even though the CFO said the highest per diem request he could recall was less than $700. Here's the exact wording of the Resolution. "The Board of Education's maximum allowable reimbursement for travel, meal, and lodging expenses shall be nine-hundred dollars ($900.00) per day for each Board member, administrator, and employee of the District. As required by the Act, the Board may approve expenses exceeding the maximum allowable reimbursement only by roll call vote at an open meeting of the Board." It is another example of lack of Board oversight and accountability.

James Hall  

Posted: April 6th, 2017 11:39 AM

And Ben Conley is already working on the next referendum.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: April 6th, 2017 10:02 AM

@Chris Costello, @Ben Conley, @EVERYBODY - add to the list of things we'll be watching are the fees paid to outside consultants. One suggestion would be to end that practice all together - particularly those conducting "national searches" to find replacement school administrators. Nothing at all against any current administrators, but how about we save the time and expense of a national search and make a real effort to promote from within? One of the big problems in this community is a lack of community knowledge and institutional history in those who are running our schools. As a result, we often unnecessarily reinvent the wheel.

Barbara Purington  

Posted: April 6th, 2017 10:00 AM

@Chris: Did I read correctly that a $900 travel per diem for district employees was passed? I stand corrected if it was some other school district. Does anyone else find this amount obscene? As a former state worker, the per diet allowed was pitiful. And my partner, who frequently traveled for a major corporation, never had a $900 a day travel allowance. He did not fly business class, stay at five star hotels, or dine at the finest steak houses across the country or Canada. Could the new board members look into this right away, renegotiate the per diem to a level of comfort the common people know when traveling on business? Thank you.

Barbara Purington  

Posted: April 6th, 2017 9:44 AM

@Jason Sounds like you have deep pockets/discretionary income (voted yes). I find it curious that you have a problem with paying more than your fair share. After all, it's for the children.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 10:43 PM

Well Ben, as you know this has not been the only divisive issue recently in our village. The Petition for Referendum (of which I was a very active participant) and the subsequent D200 referendum (again very much involved) was no cake walk. And the elections - particularly the D200 school board - was contentious. And then there was the Village Trustee elections, not overtly hostile but not collegial (look at the outrageous editorial smear of (now) Trustee Boutet by the WJ). And of course the Albion fight is just literally around the corner. But I ask you Ben would you rather be in a community - quiet and "asleep" - or one in which democracy - in all its messy glory - is alive and well. American democracy is sometimes contentious and messy, but always enlightening. I wouldn't have it any other way. Once again congrats on your victory. You were an excellent spokesman for the D97 mission.

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 10:40 PM

Bridgett, I thank you for your post and agree wholeheartedly. It was a point I highlighted in my opinion letter, Trust & the 2017 Election, published in the Wednesday Journal last month: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/3-14-2017/Trust-&-the-2017-election/ The D97 Board made no effort to communicate the referenda to ALL of the 37,753 registered voters in Oak Park. That failure on behalf of the Board says it all.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 10:25 PM

ok Jason, I get your point, so how's this: as a reward for voting YES, those homeowners have a 50% increase in the value of their homes and therefore a 50% increase in their home's assessed value, and as a punishment for voting NO, those homeowners have just a 10% increase in their homes' value and a resulting 10% increase in assessed value. So the YESSERS will get a nice bonus, and a much bigger piece of the pie! Yes sir!!! What kind of pie do you like?

Chris Costello  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 9:19 PM

@Ben - Agree completely. To the Board (and Mr. Breymaier since he posted): We are watching. No spending sprees. No iPads for all. No worthless software. No fancy administration buildings. No large bumps in staff salary. Despite the referenda passing, find waste to cut anyway. Get D97's fiscal house in order and it won't be such a divisive fight next time (and next time better be a long long time from now).

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 8:30 PM

No, Ben. Just spellcheck.

Ben Conley from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 8:14 PM

vigilante = vigilant. Freudian slip?

Ben Conley from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 8:11 PM

@Bruce - while I'm certainly happy with the ultimate outcome, it's undoubtedly a muted sentiment given the divisiveness of the issue and the clear impact the tax increase will have on many families. Even the folks voting yes did so with a grimace. While it's not reflected in the article, I thought one of Jim Gates' most meaningful comments was that the vote was a reflection that the taxpayers of Oak Park have placed their trust in the Board, and that the Board must be vigilante about maintaining that trust. (Although I think he said it more eloquently.) So, while the ultimate outcome may not have been what some folks had hoped for, rest assured that your voices were heard. Because I know we'll be back here doing this again sooner or later (absent a miraculous fix in school funding at the state level), I intend to keep a watchful eye on D97, and I'd hope others would do the same.

Janet Haisman from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 5:38 PM

While I don't often agree with John Butch Murtaugh, I do this time. I supported these referenda and am really happy that they passed. I also agree with the person who said that administrative costs are too high. Rumor has it that teachers were asked what they needed to make instruction even better during the last referendum, and then they did not receive much of anything that they had requested. Rather, some curricula has been changed several years in a row, at the administration's behest. That needs to be addressed. As for property values causing homes to sit vacant - NOT true. Good schools are the reason most people buy in a community like Oak Park, and it takes money to run good schools. CONGRATULATIONS to all who worked on this effort!

Al Rossell  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 5:04 PM

Does'nt anyone realize that the assessed value on most tax bills increased in this area around 20%? My complaint is that these referendums always seem to occur during a re- assessment cycle. Wonder if more money will come in than they told us.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 4:20 PM

@Barbara and @Nick: You are doing something very common in our current political climate. You are using some level of correlation to prove causation. People appeal their tax bill to get lower taxes for sure but the appeal is done to pay the accurate amount. Taxing bodies aren't walking into everyone's homes to make sure their numbers makes sense. This means that there are elements driving up a tax bill that might not be correct. As someone who has appealed taxes and won I can assure you my goal was to pay my fair share. I also voted Yes and completely understand that my taxes will go up because of this and am willing to pay for that. I am not willing to pay for mistakes made that incorrectly assess my property.

Cassandra Hutchinson  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 3:36 PM

Bruce: Thanks for the response. While I get it that the majority vote supported the Yes point of view, I am just fatigued with the need to always ask (2011, 2017) for an "increase to the limiting rate". There is clearly a reason there is a "limit", so (D97) let's operate within it. In some households, that "limit" is known as a "budget".

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 3:34 PM

The one criticism I have of D97, and they know this, and it's a big one, is that they did *NOT* inform the entire community of these referenda. And that was on purpose. They informed the D97 community, the internal community, those with kids in the system. Putting an insert in the FYI Village Newsletter, which does *not* get individually mailed to multi-unit buildings (about 40% of households) does not count. In contract, while the info wasn't exactly accurate, D200 last November, sent out TWO mailings for a referendum that would increase our tax bills by about $100 per $10K. And yet D97, with these having a $1,000 per $10K impact (yes, it's $1,000--$740 for the $13.3M operating referendum, and $260 for the $57.5M capex referendum) sent out nothing. If we are truly a community that espouses to be so progressive, so democratic, then it's time to act like it. Get the facts out to everyone, to those footing the bill, and if the case is good enough, then it will be supported. That's democracy.

Rob Breymaier  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 3:22 PM

Hi Dave. Not my most articulate statement, but I am glad that the job of being a board member won't be overwhelmed with finding out how to cut vital programs in the least painful way possible. Instead, we can work from a stable platform to improve the excellence and equity in our schools.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 3:09 PM

Cassandra: I feel your pain and anger - I mean it, I really do. I invested time and lucre to stop this from happening. But in fact the employee here - D97 - did not tell the boss (the taxpayer) that they will be given 7.4% raise. In fact the employee, D97, ASKED, the boss, the taxpayer (you, me and our fellow citizens) for a raise, and the boss (the taxpayer) agreed. In my opinion, the boss (the taxpayer) made an ill advised decision, but it was the boss' (taxpayer's) decision none the less.

Cassandra Hutchinson  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 2:36 PM

Since when does an employee (D97) tell the boss (taxpayer) that they will be given a 7.4% raise? I don't even get a 7.4% pay raise from my employer! Please do not mistake the passing of this back-breaking referenda as approval to continue with wasteful spending. Accountability and transparency has to now be at 120%. So start saying goodbye to "ghost payrolls", perks for the admins and all other wasteful administration spending that makes the D97 budget outrageous. The wasteful spending is not happening in the classrooms nor the arts programs so stop targeting them as collateral damage. Do your jobs, cut the fat, work with Rauner and the State lawmakers to pay their fair share. Now, if I have to sell my home because the taxes are "too high", I won't be leaving Oak Park. My new digs will be at the new D97 administration office at 260 Madison St. After all, as a taxpayer, I'm paying for it. Leave the lights off (savings) and the key under the mat.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 2:35 PM

Congratulation to the team that made sure that our education continues to make our future strong!

Natalie Rauch Kelly  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 2:24 PM

I should also note that these figures are backed out from the previous year's taxes and account for a homeowner's exemption, We all know the overall tax rate will be increasing again to account for inflation. But, it's somewhere to start.

Natalie Rauch Kelly  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 1:34 PM

Some handy-dandy math for everyone. Previous taxes shook out to be essentially your assessed value X .339912. So, a house assessed at $29,419 (10% of the $294,193 market value) would have that $10,000 example tax bill we kept hearing about That same house with the new referenda passed will now see a tax bill of the assessed value X .365065. A property tax bill of $10,000 now applies to homes assessed at a market value of $273,924.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 1:10 PM

Ultimately people get what they vote for - or don't. For better or for worse, the people have spoken. For those approximately 19K who stayed home, don't complain when you get your big property tax bill this August or when your rents climbs outa sight. Now we will see going forward, whether this enormous tax increase to "support our schools" will in fact improve our property values and most importantly our community. Count me skeptical. But time will tell. Congratulations to Ben and the rest of the D97 Vote YES campaign.

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 12:17 PM

@Barbara - Just cross-reference yard signs with the county tax appeals database (link below). But your provocative observation led me to some sleuthing myself: It appears that the largest financial backer of the referenda has indeed appealed their property taxes this year. Let that hypocrisy wash over you like a large shadow over a beloved park. http://www.cookcountyassessor.com/Search/Appeal-Search.aspx

Dave Slade from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 10:47 AM

"It's definitely better that the referenda passed because otherwise my life would have been trying to figure out what are we going to cut." WOW! So you shifted this on to me and what I'm going to cut out of what my family can do. This has now come down to "what do we now do without so I can pay my taxes?".

Barbara Joan  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 10:10 AM

Elitism and corrupt spending won; so much for " diversity". NO, people do not just love Oak Park and river Forest so much that they will pay outrageous real estate prices, especially once they realize how high the taxes are.And the schools just aren't so amazing when compared to many other less "elite" communities..Good luck selling your houses, and the number of foreclosures will keep increasing here, and rentals will be for groups of post college kids who split the rent or yuppies--but families will no longer be able to afford the high rents when they increase yet again due to increased taxes. How progressive, not!

Kline Maureen  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 9:48 AM

@Barbara, you're sort of echoing my own feelings on this. I am a big supporter of public education but at some point, spending needs to be controlled. That applies to ALL our taxing districts. It only seems fair that those who voted YES should get a bigger piece of the tax pie. Everyone's taxes are going up - and not just because of this referendum - but it would be nice if we could shift a larger share of the burden to those who really want to pay it!

Barbara Purington  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 9:25 AM

I would like to know if any of the homeowners who voted Yes/Yes in support of the referenda, filed tax appeals with the Assessor by the deadline, April 3? Clearly, your appeal should be denied since you just voted for a tax increase and have deep pockets. What's that you say? Your property is overtaxed and you are paying more than your fair share? No matter.

James Hall  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 8:29 AM

Just so glad we can finally get the poor people out of Oak Park. At least we'll have lots of well paid librarians!

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 8:15 AM

I couldn't think of a better way to capture this "overwhelming" victory for our children than pictures of grown-ups staring at their cell phones.

Josh Vanderberg  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 7:33 AM

Note, only about 600 Yes votes would need to flip to No to have defeated this referendum. Once the new tax bills come out, I am guessing the public's attitude towards new taxes will change enough that 600 people will easily switch sides on whatever the next tax referendum is. I think this result serves notice to the other taxing bodies in Oak Park. Don't even try.

Natalie Stein  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 6:55 AM

When will people learn to care about the referendums and come out and vote. More money to be wasted by a tax increase. Hurt the people who can least afford this. People think voting yes helps the children which, is not true. Just keep taxing people out. Oak Park just keeps getting worse and worse.

Chris Costello  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 5:51 AM

Only in WJ land does 8% become nearly 10% and thus "overwhelming"

Neal Buer  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 3:09 AM

Wonderful schools are necessary, but you need to look at district 97 and ask if the money is being spent in the classrom, or at a top heavy administration, enriching themselves on the back of taxpayers. Compare our schools on a per child basis to other districts in the area, but in the comparison, exclude the administration costs in each district compared. I think you will find that the overall expenditure is at the top and the money spent per child in the classroom is closer to the bottom.

Natalie Rauch Kelly  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 12:12 AM

If you have kids, move to Oak Park! Clearly the opposite is also true.

Pat Koko  

Posted: April 5th, 2017 12:00 AM

May God help us all! I feel so sorry for the single parent households who will face higher rents until they leave the coimmmunity, to the seniors who will be hurt by this exhorbitant tax and may also have to give up loved homes they can no longer afford to live in. When will our taxing bodies realize that citizens have to live within their income and can't always have all they want.

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