Recently I became the reader engagement and circulation manager for the Forest Park Review. I have been a subscriber to the Review for the past 12 years, and naturally I was pretty stoked about working here. But it was an unexpected pleasure to be asked to fill in for Sharon Daly this week.

The Forest Park Review is one of the greatest resources in our small town. I don’t know of another town our size that has coverage of what is happening like we do. Like all of us, it may not be perfect, but it is the main resource for uncovering and understanding the black hole of what happens with my property taxes.

My property tax bill recently arrived about a month ago and what a great time to include this in the Review discussion. This second installment bill for 2014 showed a slight decrease in the total amount to pay, compared to last year, because the assessed value went down. In the past 10 years my tax rate had gone up from 9.998 to 12.699. 

 In the past decade, we Forest Parkers have made major changes to our town. This is reflected in the property tax bill. Recently, I compared my 2004 tax bill with my recent 2014 bill to see how our town has chosen to invest in its future. The greatest changes? The Forest Park Public Library tax rate went from 0.234 to 0.579, High School District 209 tax rate from 2.046 to 2.913 (addition of PMSA), the Park District of Forest Park went from 0.649 to 0.900 (addition of Roos property), Forest Park School District 91 went from 4.101 to 4.84 (for preschool, pensions, playgrounds and Betsy Ross addition), and the village of Forest Park went from 1.467 to 1.739 (for alleys, streets, and pension) — plus additional increases from almost every other taxing body.

Some of these increases have come from public referenda and some from “back door” referenda (issuing bond debt), all covered by the Forest Park Review. 

How we compare to neighboring towns is also included in the Review coverage. The property tax rates of our neighbors impact the housing market of our village, making it more or less desirable to move into. Knowing how and why our park district tax rate and Elementary School District 91 rate are both higher than any of our neighboring communities, and that our High School District 209 tax rate is lower, is part of the larger conversation. 

In the past year the Forest Park Review has published articles, editorials and opinions that reflect how our Forest Park dollars, collected through multiple taxing sources, are being used for the benefit our hometown. Sometimes these articles are critical and even have hurt some feelings; sometimes we agree; sometimes we disagree; but always a discussion is welcome, which is pretty darn healthy in any family. 

I went through every Forest Park Review for the past year and took a tally of the number of articles, editorials, letters to the editor, any time community engagement was happening related to one of the taxing bodies from my tax bill in the past year that reflected each of our property tax districts. It really is fascinating looking back on the hyper-local coverage in this past year. 

Within the past 12 months there was an election for village commissioners, mayor, and District 209 board, which absorbed much of the Review coverage. In addition, there were new appointments to school District 91, an uncontested election for the Park District of Forest Park, retirement of the former police chief, selection of a new police chief, zoning adjustments, discussion about red light cameras and test scores across all schools. 

The Forest Park Review has for 98 years covered the happenings of Forest Park and is dedicated to continue doing so. Thank you, Forest Park, for subscribing, investing in your hometown, engaging in the discussion and being a part of keeping our hometown thriving.

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