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Nips and tucks to the existing culture and financial management of our local taxing bodies would be virtually meaningless. Without a culture of cost containment and strict adherence to cost management, Oak Park is on the brink of unraveling its proud history of diversity. With empty nesters, retirees, DINKs, Catholic- and private-school families able to afford to stay, what is the point of all our top-notch and top-dollar services?
The new culture has to be one that starts and ends with doing more with less. That's what the never-ending property tax spikes have forced all villagers to do.
Why do we have so many separate and distinct government entities in this tiny town? Why do the schools consistently spend far more than they take in?
In addition to having to budget the way companies and families do, each taxing body in OP should have to watch the Steve Martin/Amy Poehler Saturday Night Live sketch on financial literacy. In the ad for a 1-page free book called "Stop Buying Stuff," the advice is simple: Stop spending money you don't have.
In the case of Oak Park, we need to stop spending money we don't have and stop raising taxes to get more money.
Hopefully this task force will have more than just advisory powers to introduce and then enforce more rigorous budget and planning processes on the schools and other taxing bodies. Culture and practices are long-overdue for shifting priorities from "look at this wonderful, top-dollar, exciting thing we can do... no matter what it costs." Yet, here we are, reading that D200 has 3 great new facilities plans and no one has even talked about budget or finances yet. That's appalling. That kind of process and thinking is dangerous. Hopefully this task force can cause a turn-around in reckless processing and reckless cultures that drive our out-of-control spending.
Are our agencies right-sized? How much of our over-spending is because we have bloated bureaucracies?
Regardless, nothing is likely to change without a total culture change and a new culture of budgeting for long-term sustainability and strict cost management. Stop buying things we can't afford. Stop spending money that erodes the sustainability of this community's diversity. Stop going back to the well and begging for more.
It may be too late. The only people that may be able to afford to live in Oak Park will be families with multiple children who can pay the exorbitant property taxes just as long as those are seen as equal to or less than multiple private school tuitions. That's not a community most of us want to stay in.
1. Reduce administrative costs at OPRF by eliminating temporary or "interim" administrative positions by hiring full-time employees or distributing those tasks to already employed administrators. "Interim" employees are often retired administrators who charge a premium for services the district can provide in-house.
2. Close one or both branch library. I love our library and the main library does a fantastic job serving the community in one location.
Set a max budget number, make the appropriate cuts.
There is only 1 right answer to reducing the spending. Cuts. not increasing efficiencies (though it helps), it's cuts.
To start off, pick a tax rate that protects the diversity and pockets of oak park residents, then set that as the max budget. Cut until you are within budget. OPRF high school is not a sacred cow; gut the old budget and start fresh there.
Another option that I would gladly divert my tax dollars towards, would be to create a new position that is a village budgetary watchdog. 1 person, salaried, they are given a bonus for every 25K (or whatever number makes sense) that they cut from the village department budget(s. create a position that is incentivized to get everyone spending less.
competative bid every single job performed in the village. we are such a small town, it makes sense to go to the private sector than to try and support our own fleets of trucks and equipment.
The village needs to drop all “partner” programs, get out of the development business, and stop funding TIFs. Concentrate on police, fire, and public works. Stck with what we need, and forget about what everyone wants.
Start phasing in LED lights in street lamps. Though the initial capital outlay is greater, the long term savings will be substantial.
Is this excersise going to result in change?
Action not words
Has the village ever lowered taxes? Make them more competitive? Realistic? If I keep getting notices that my value has dropped, why don’t my taxes? Can this questionnaire lead to lower taxes or should we come up with those answers for you as well?
Eliminate the studies that the village is constantly paying to run. I imagine the money saved by not needing a warehouse to store all the studies would even provide a cost savings.
Reducing taxes by reducing spending
If the VOP staff and board would employ the skills, knowledge and time of the commissions instead of hiring consultants we could save a great deal of money and therefore reduce our taxes. This is the way it was done when the commissions were actually used to advise the board, to do the research on and often do the work of what they both proposed, and they also didn't expect to get paid. Now our elected officials and high paid staff immediately propose hiring "consultants" without even passing their ideas on to the commissions nor do they listen to the commissions "advice". The final step is when the board and staff hire expensive corporate businesses that are usually not local, often even from out of state and ignorant of our history and goals. Therefore our money isn't kept in a circular economy which in itself, would save the village money, support our local businesses and local resident owners and workers. Overall, we need more communication and transparency on everything but especially on how they want to spend our money. This way the residents can be the unpaid "consultants" on whether or not the board should do what they have unilaterally planned,
It will come down to elections...
Concerned citizens of Oak Park have a huge responsibility in upcoming elections. First will be to vote -NO- on a D200 referendum, and galvanize support of neighbors and friends to do the same. Second, we must oust board members, trustees, and other elected officials who've shown a lack of care for financial responsibility.
There's a game our taxing bodies play... "oh, this levy increase is just a couple extra hundred dollars per year per household. It's not huge". The problem is that it adds up. It happens quicker than you realize when we keep tacking on increases to the max allowable amount (or more with referendums). There needs to be a culture change about how to responsibly handle tax-payer money, and limit levy increases. Oak Park isn't on a path for a future that includes residents of all income levels.
Our elected officials need to speak up more when they think another taxing body is abusing it's power or a loophole (e.g. D97's absorption of the excess referendum dollars into perpetuity). Every elected official should have to complete a financial fiduciary course (maybe even a certification), and take an oath to serve ALL residents before taking office.
Determine the budget based on a Tax Rate
Simple. Set a tax rate. Make the budget work.
Set a tax rate that entices people and ESPECIALLY businesses to come to oak park. That sets the cap on income, then spend less than that amount. We all manage to do it, why can't the local government.
I appreciate the public forum, but this is not something that is that hard to understand, and I fear this whole exercise is designed to allow residents to vent, but not be heard. I am currently looking at moving out due to the taxes, I don't WANT to but I am curious to see if VOP actually changes...
6 Ways To Make Our Village More Efficient and Reduce Costs
Eliminate the Village Township
There is no question that the Village Township provides value. However, with the problem of property taxes becoming unaffordable to many village residents, bold actions must be taken in order to reduce local government spending by consolidating and eliminating non-essential taxing bodies. The Village Township does not provide any essential government services.
Eliminating the Village Township in its entirety would have a large and immediate impact to reduce the burden of local property taxes. 75% of the cost savings should be used to provide direct tax relief while the other 25% could be used as grants to local nonprofits to offset the loss of the youth and senior programs.
Allow the Madison Street TIF to Expire
If the plans for the use of the existing Madison Street TIF funds is no longer viable, then the TIF district should be dissolved. Those funds could be returned to the OP taxing bodies as a way to reduce the need to increase our local property taxes. Village owned properties should be auctioned off for independent business development.
Reduce The OPEDC Budget by 50%
There has been several successful development projects in Oak Park and there are plenty of other areas that need more development. However, the rate of this development has been very fast and the effects on the existing development have not been fully realized. Therefore, we should allow some time for the current development projects to saturate before any further large scale projects are approved. The savings from this budget reduction could go towards implementing additional cost efficient programs for the Village.
Eliminate Business Subsidies
The Village provides an important role to foster the growth of local businesses. However, it should not be directly involved with any specific business. It should not be the Village’s responsibility to save or subsidize a local business if market conditions make that business unfeasible.
Reduce the Need for Outside Consultants
Oak Park benefits from having a well educated, diverse and civilily engaged population. Therefore, the community should be called upon to provide assistance in providing recommendations to solve local problems. Because we are a small community with specific needs and problems, it may be a disservice to use non-local experts that have experience in areas that do not share our unique demographics.
Promote Efficiency Over Innovation
Oak Park has a history of creating headlines for various innovations. However, sometimes this is done to create headlines in the press and to win various awards of recognition. Many of these efforts are expensive and may not provide sufficient value to warrant their expense and use of resources. There are plenty of existing innovations that can be selected for implementation rather than trying to create new ones.