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Oak Park's Urgency: Reining in Excessive Taxation

Opinion: Columns

February 19th, 2019 12:38 PM

By Bridgett Baron

Village of Oak Park Trustee candidate

The race for three open seats on the Oak Park Village Board is crowded with 11 candidates. If you've been listening to the campaign dialogue so far, you may think choosing the ones for you is about determining which ones align most closely with your level of progressivism.

I share my fellow candidates' progressive values. However, as a practical matter, I also recognize that — more than any other issue — reining in excessive taxation is the foremost concern for me and fellow Oak Parkers, property owners and renters alike.

Fortunately, it also happens to be something that, if elected, I would have much more influence over than any noble-sounding notion that has little, if anything, to do with actual village governance. Oak Park has a bad habit of throwing money at issues — think the Divvy bike-sharing debacle, or the Downtown Oak Park valet parking service to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars — that have little to no impact.

The accompanying chart shows three data trends between 2005 and 2018: Oak Park's overall levy increase among all six taxing bodies and Tax Increment Financing districts, inflation, and average single-family home sale prices.

Over that span, total levies (reflecting the trends of an average tax bill) have gone up 68 percent, or well above twice the rate of inflation. Meantime, the average single-family home sale price has appreciated by less than 3 percent. A prime reason: Buyers must allocate a larger proportion of their total monthly housing "nut" to real estate taxes, thereby dampening property values.

I am surely not alone in knowing of numerous anecdotal stories that reflect the fallout from these trends. Countless Oak Parkers have decided, or are coming to the decision, that they need to sell their home because their real estate tax bill has made homeownership in our community unaffordable. Regrettably, if these sellers purchased their home after 2005, they often find that they are unable to sell their home for as much as their purchase price, when doing so seemed like such a sound investment.

Two foundational roles of municipal government are to protect and strengthen the value of property, and to stabilize property taxes. Unfortunately, Oak Park has experienced the very opposite: a one-two punch of stagnant property values coupled with rapidly rising taxes.

Through early voting that begins on March 18 and culminating on Election Day on April 2, there are three open seats that Oak Parkers will fill on the village board.

If you share my concern about burdensome taxation causing property values to suffer, I ask for your support and your vote. If you desire village board members who will be diligent in advocating for policies that maximize equity for all Oak Park residents with a level-headed view of their potential impact on property values, I ask for your support and your vote. And if you seek fresh voices on the village board that are balanced, fact-driven and independent, I ask for your support and your vote.

For more information on Bridgett's candidacy, visit BridgettBaron.com.