The Library and Affordability
This page has data to help understand why Oak Park is becoming less affordable and in particular the role of the Library in this trend. This data is taken from on-line budgets. Please let me know if you have questions or if you find any errors.
OPPL's 2021 Budget vs. Comparable Suburbs
Oak Park's library system outspends comparable districts by a lot, per capita. Even Evanston spends less in total and has 40% more people. Oak Parkers have generously supported the Library - but at the cost of long-term affordability. We can pause our spending growth AND still have an extremely well-funded library system.
Spending Growth Far Exceeds Inflation
The library has been increasing its spending (blue) much faster than inflation (green) for at least two decades. Here is how much OPPL has been spending on operating and capital expenses (maintenance, equipment, etc) vs inflation.
The Library and Tax Relief Failure
The Library Board has had at least two recent chances to provide real tax relief, but chose not to. First, the Library Board could have been reducing its taxing levy as it paid down the debt it incurred for the new library, which opened in the early 2000s. Notice how the library's debt repayment (gray line below) for building the new library dropped from close to $3 million per year to zero over the last 5 years.
When the voters of Oak Park approved the construction of the library in 2000, they were told that the payments for it would end in 20 years. But the Library board broke faith with those voters and chose to increase its spending rather than reducing its levy by more than $2 million per year, indefinitely.
In 2019, the Library Board did it again when the Madison TIF District expired. A TIF is a tool that the Village uses to encourage development. A TIF takes new tax money, realized when new development increases the tax base, and directs it back into the TIF development area, for a limited time. The idea is to grow the tax base of Oak Park so that the current residents and businesses will see tax relief when the new development is added to the general tax rolls, vs when the TIF is still capturing and spending the new tax base.
When the TIF expired, the Library Board, by law, was given the opportunity to either let the new tax base serve to offset the taxes paid by everyone else in Oak Park, or to increase their tax levy and not provide any relief to the residents and businesses. Or they could split the amount as they saw fit. The Board chose to capture 100% of the new tax base, and give 0% tax relief. This is not how the TIF was sold to the residents, and it shows that the current Board will not be a willing partner in keeping Oak Park affordable.