On July 30, the Oak Park Village Board voted on the proposal to ask the following question on the November 6th ballot: “Shall the merger and consolidation of Oak Park taxing bodies be considered, including, but not limited to, the Village of Oak Park, Oak Park Township, the Oak Park Public Library and the Park District of Oak Park, to determine if there would be efficiencies, the elimination of redundancies and/or property tax reduction for the residents of Oak Park?” The question was suggested by the Taxing Bodies Efficiencies Task Force in their quest to find ways to reduce costs and property taxes here in Oak Park.
Cara Pavlicek, the village manager, noted that at last week’s meeting there were diverse opinions about how the language on the referendum could be crafted. Tension and emotions had run high during the previous discussion.
Four people from the community spoke against listing the question on the ballot during the public comment portion of the meeting. There were not any public comments in support of the proposed referendum. Kent Dean spoke on behalf of Oak Park Call to Action against the proposal. He stated that they believe it is an unnecessary step and is laying the groundwork for a campaign rather than “addressing the question of good governance.”
Community Health Board Director Lisa DiVevo gave multiple examples of collaborations that have already happened within the Oak Park governing bodies, including a collaboration between the village and the Community Health Board to create a 5-year community health plan. She expressed concern that an unintended consequence of the referendum is “siloing” departments that are not listed. DiVevo asked the board to reconsider and find another way to reduce the tax burden collaboratively.
The board ultimately voted 5-1 to approve the proposal and the non-binding question about consolidating some of Oak Park’s largest departments will now appear on the November 6th ballot for Oak Park residents.
When the November 6th vote happens, Oak Park residents will be voting whether or not the board will consider the consolidation. This is a non-binding referendum, which means that a yes majority vote will simply let the board know that the community would like them to look into merging the departments listed, and possibly others as well. A no majority will show that the Oak Park community is not interested in the consolidation of the governing bodies. There is sure to be further discussion about this issue before November rolls around.