Oak Park/River Forest group: Opposition to $45 million pool plan growing
With only a few weeks remaining before Oak Park and River Forest residents decide whether they will spend $44.5 million on a new swimming pool, those opposing the project are optimistic they will prevail, a spokeswoman said.
"OPRF Pragmatic Pool Solutions is pleased with the progress of our informational campaign to spread the message to voters in Oak Park and River Forest what the referendum question on the ballot actually means," group member Monica Sheehan told West Cook News.
Sheehan said the ballot question is misleading, asking voters to approve the borrowing of $25 million when the project actually costs almost twice that.
"$20 million would come from the cash reserve," Sheehan said. "It's not from 'savings,' but from a decade of overtaxing property taxpayers."
This referendum notwithstanding, massive public pension debts mean property taxes in Cook County are going much higher, likely doubling or tripling to fund government worker pensions.
Oak Park and River Forest property taxpayers are currently on the hook for at least $50,000 per household in state and local government debt. Oak Parkers currently owe $227 million in local government debt, $724 million for their share of state debt and $179 million in Cook County debt.
River Forest property taxpayers owe $29 million in local debt, $126 million for their share of state debt and $186 million in Cook County debt.
Oak Park and River Forest currently have some of the highest property tax rates not just in Illinois, but in the U.S.
According to a November 2015 Chicago Tribune analysis, Oak Park's effective property tax rate for homeowners is 3.35 percent.
That means the owner of a $500,000 Oak Park home pays an average of $16,750 per year in property taxes -- nearly $1,400 per month. For a buyer putting 20 percent down and paying a market interest rate, such a tax bill nears the principal and interest payment on the same home, approximately $1,700.
That's significantly more than comparable Chicago-area communities.
Among Cook County suburbs, Western Springs has an effective property tax rate of 2.32 percent, or $11,600 per year ($966 per month) for that same $500,000 home.
Wilmette homeowners pay an effective tax rate of 2.08 percent, or $10,400 ($866 per month), and Winnetka homeowners pay 2.12 percent, or $10,600 ($883 per month).
Sheehan hopes property taxpayers see they are being taxed out of their homes.
"At $44.5 million, it is too expensive, too wasteful, and its 40-meter, 25-yard pool is too large for the space-confined campus," Sheehan said.