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Two steps to property tax sanity

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

August 13th, 2019 12:31 PM

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