Two steps to property tax sanity

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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We believe the Oak Park Village Board has to put two statements in its 2019-2020 goals:

1. Cap the 2020 property tax levy. No higher than 3% of the prior year's levy.

2. Adopt a budgeting plan that identifies program priorities, costs, and outcomes. Do that not later than Jan. 15, 2020.

Those two actions may be the only way to bring sanity to escalating village of Oak Park property taxes. Taxes have grown so rapidly that we are now seeing how they rob financial equity from homeowners.

Why a cap? Simply: Nothing else has worked. Oak Park has a legacy of involved citizens who oppose costly programs. Yet in the long-term, dealing with spending on a one-off basis hasn't slowed tax escalation. Last year's tax efficiency task force said cap the village levy increases at 3%. Maybe it should be lower, but any cap has to be less than the 5% increases that became the norm.

Why a new budgeting plan? A cap will constrain tax revenue growth. It will force unpleasant decisions on trustees: Which "needy" group gets the money? What special interest group will "pack the gallery" at a board meeting to sway a vote? Faced with emotional pleas, trustees need to identify program priorities, costs, and outcomes to make effective decisions. It's up to the board and staff to figure out an exact budgeting process that fits Oak Park, and they need to do it now.

The village board has to take these two steps now to do something right for the majority of Oak Park taxpayers.

Jim Peters

David Montgomery

Alan and Lisa Reed

Monica Sheehan

Greg O'Brien

Brian Chang

Oak Park

Reader Comments

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Bruce Kline  

Posted: August 17th, 2019 1:14 PM

Yeah Amanda, just remember what Arnold said (in the Terminator): "I'll be back." People are naive if they think the pool and other elaborate excessive expenditures are dead. As you pointed out, far from it. They'll be back.

Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park  

Posted: August 17th, 2019 8:13 AM

Bruce, couldn't agree more. People complain but don't vote. Less than 20% last time. People complain then vote in some "spenders" onto the Boards. Wait til the 2nd "Component", the large pool and some other athletics facilities, comes up again in another year. Nope, they havent let it go people.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: August 17th, 2019 1:55 AM

Terry: the school boards have an accomplice: US. It is US who vote YES for their inane referenda requests. It is us who elected members to both boards who dismissed out of hand the notion that taxes are a major issue. Remember? Those SB candidates who made taxes a focal point of their platforms were all defeated. No. One Else. To. Blame. Just US.

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: August 16th, 2019 4:49 PM

The problem with the Village budget and actual expenditures is that it does not use accrual accounting, as a business would. Properly viewed, the Village may not have a had a balanced budget in decades. That is because the pension obligations get buried under the rug, and the Village reports do not reflect the actual cost of doing business, by shifting the day of reckoning for past and present services to the future. The bill from kicking the can down the road is coming due, and can no longer be hidden.

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: August 16th, 2019 12:58 PM

Terry - The schools will tell you it's the state's fault. The state will tell you it's the tax code's fault. I will tell you that the state's fix will not make Oak Park more affordable.

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: August 16th, 2019 12:44 PM

Bruce: The "otherwise" is to not cut some existing programs, and continue to let new ones creep in slowly, and then the neglected pension plan obligations will grow like weeds, and both of the following will happen. Taxes will become enormous, and pension obligations will strangle current services.

Terry Stanton  

Posted: August 16th, 2019 9:35 AM

Great, but the real effort should be directed at the school boards which are the main drivers of ever-rising property taxes.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: August 15th, 2019 7:30 PM

I agree Kevin that is the hard reality. But what would you suggest otherwise?

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: August 15th, 2019 11:44 AM

The hard reality is that to cap increases at 3% will not only mean few or no new initiatives, but cutting back on existing ones. The problem: Making up for underfunded pensions for police and firefighters/paramedics We will have to ramp up on fixing these overdue payments, or the problem will fester and get worse. Someday, if we don't start acting more aggressively now, half of the budget will go not for current services, but to pay for past benefits earned long, long ago. What with some adjustment for inflation to salaries and health benefits for current workers, this means that there will have to be cuts to existing programs. Trustee Deno Andrews seems to understand these matters. Now he has to convince the others.

Tom MacMillan  

Posted: August 14th, 2019 1:00 PM

The Oak Park Board has zero interest in controlling or reducing tax spending. They give lip service to the idea and then do the exact opposite. Its been going on a long time. What we need is to find a way to get more that 2900 people who care about the never ending tax increases, to vote for candidates who are not like the Trustees we have now. If everyone who appeals their property taxes would also vote, we could start to stop the insanity.

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