This past week a transformation plan was presented for Proviso East High School, a new district superintendent took over at the 209 Proviso High Schools, a forum on video gaming was presented by our Village, a local community meet-up was started to “Meet Your Neighbors” to celebrate diversity in Forest Park, the second annual Music Fest was hosted on Madison all weekend, a crowd of people participated in “A March To Madison” to raise awareness of racism in our suburban communities, our Cub Scouts had an overnight at Cantigny, the Forest Park Historical Society hosted a bake sale, the Chess Club met at the library, Ralph Di Febo gave another presentation on Cultural Park, and a grenade was found in a basement and brought to the police station.
With all these forces colliding, I want to use this space to share some data on our local property taxes. The second installment tax bill arrived this month, and is due on Aug 1. This is the glue holding our commonwealth together. We each pay property taxes, either directly or indirectly, every year, and we trust that it will be used in our communal best interest to keep our community safe, educated, and clean — our roads maintained, our water managed and our mosquitos abated.
If you are still reading this, you might remember that last year we put a similar article in the Review. Whether you happen to be an alert taxpayer, or are in an escrow coma, or a renter, you might like to see where your money goes.
So here’s how the property tax bill works: There are taxing bodies — township, county, school district, library, park district — with different boundaries. Each of these taxing bodies has a different tax rate. Tax rates are set by public vote or through referendum by elected officials.
Then this rate is multiplied by the Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) of a property. Every property has a special EAV, which is not the actual value of a property but a rate set by a formula based on the market and some mathematical wizardry. Basically, the more your property is worth, the more your EAV will be, and the higher your EAV, the higher amount paid in your portion of taxes.
Living in a small town, with friends and neighbors serving on boards, it can be difficult to honestly evaluate decisions made with our tax dollars, and not take things personally. I am grateful to all the people who serve our community. The chart on the following page shows the breakdown of the Property Tax rate paid by Forest Park for the current tax cycle and all the towns we touch. Some of our rates are higher than our neighboring towns, like Elementary School District 91, the park district and the library.
In addition, there is a chart that shows the most recent audit statements available from the Cook County Treasurer’s Office on our village and our neighbors. Our village government manages our roads, alleys, all the pocket parks, police, fire, business licenses and much more, using a variety of taxing sources, which include property and sales taxes. Forest Park seems competitive in the area in our Gross Operating Budget and seems to be in alignment with our neighbors.
Our highest property tax shares go to our schools, as this is their main source of funding. Forest Park class sizes are small compared to the neighboring towns, and we spend more per child. The controversial PARCC testing results are not very impressive for our elementary schools as compared to other schools in our area. The Illinois Report Card shows ISAT scores from 2013-14, which gives a little better picture for Forest Park elementary schools. We are using our surplus tax funds in our schools to provide free school supplies, which are appreciated, but perhaps we can find ways to achieve higher academic outcomes that we can broadcast.
These taxing bodies are public. Our elected officials are stewards of our money. So as we pay our property tax bill and consider all of the services we are collectively contributing to, consider attending a board meeting or reading minutes online. The more citizens participate in the Forest Park dialogue, the more aware and thoughtful we become in planning our future.