Public Watchdog.org

‘Tis The Season For Schizophrenia (Or Hypocrisy?) About RE Taxes

12.22.15

It’s that time of the year again, folks, and we don’t mean Christmas. Or Hanukkah. Or Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, or Festivus, either.

We mean Cook County property tax time. Or, more specifically, the second installment of the 2014 property taxes. And judging by a post on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group Facebook page, that’s got a lot of you griping up a storm about the continually-rising costs of living in the City of Park Ridge.

We suggest you read the Concerned Homeowners’ string started by Phil Poole on December 18 to get yourself up to speed on the comments that we’ll be riffing on in this post. Otherwise, you may find yourself scratching your head out of confusion rather than from befuddlement at some of those comments that pass for insights and fiscal thinking.

What we find most interesting about those comments is that their primary focus seems to be on the City of Park Ridge’s property tax increase – even though the City spends pretty much the same amount of money serving, protecting and maintaining a community of 37,000+ people that Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 spends on educating a mere 4,500 kids.

Education is important, to be sure. But how exactly does one justify spending $70 million a year to educate 4,500 kids (an average of $15,555 per kid) at the same time we’re spending $70 million to provide 37,000+ residents (at an average of $1,892 per resident, including most of those same 4,500 kids) with essential City services (police, fire, sewer, water, streets, sidewalks), a Library, and those huge-ticket capital improvements such as flood remediation?

For residents with kids in our public schools, the justification for more and more indiscriminate school spending is pretty much just plain math.

Even if the size of your home and land puts you among Park Ridge’s Top 25% residential property taxpayers and your annual property tax bill is $21,000, only around $2,100 of that goes to the City – while approximately $7,000 goes to D-64 and another $7,000 goes to D-207. So if you’ve got just one kid in D-64 schools, you’re getting over $14,000 of education for your $7,000. In investment vernacular, that’s a 100% ROI. Annually.

Add a second kid to D-64 and that gives you $28,000 of education for your $7,000, raising your ROI to a whopping 300%. Also annually. What’s not to like about that, especially if one of your principal life’s goals is to suck more money out of the system than you pay in?

Do you think that might explain the dead silence about D-64 (and D-207) taxes and tax increases from many of those commentators on the Concerned Homeowners page – you know, those with kids in D-64 (and D-207) schools – who happily barbecue the City for its taxing/spending increases while at the same time spouting mindless socialist rimshots like: “[A] city should act like a big family” and “People will not work harder because they get payed more.”

Seriously?

Which brings us, albeit indirectly, to the recent decision by the City Council to appeal a Cook County Circuit Court decision over-ruling the Park Ridge Planning & Zoning Commission’s withholding approval necessary for a developer to construct a four-story, 22-unit residential building at 400 Talcott, even though the development met the requirements of the City’s Zoning Code.

We’re no fans of increased residential density for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the likelihood such increased density brings more flooding and more school-aged kids adding to our school-tax deficits. But when a developer satisfies our Zoning Code requirements, that should be the end of it – especially when both the City’s former and current law firms agree that the likelihood of the City’s prevailing on appeal is low.

If you want a place to lay the blame for this fiasco, it should be the Zoning Code. And if that’s not enough for you, blame the 17 residents who comprised the Ad Hoc Zoning Ordinance Rewrite Committee that, with the assistance of an outside consultant, produced the current Zoning Ordinance 10 years ago. But don’t blame the developer just because you think he’s a jerk, or a bully, or because you dislike his project.

And whatever you do, don’t say and do things which stupidly suggest that the City is now just trying to make life miserable and unduly expensive for the developer in the hope that he’ll give up and go away. That’s bad in principle, it’s bad policy, and it’s exactly the kind of thing that causes naysayers to brand Park Ridge as “unfriendly to business.”

With that kind of reputation, how can Park Ridge expect to get any of those businesses that some of our more clueless residents claim are just waiting for the City’s elevator pitch – like a centrally-located Jimmy Johns?

To read or post comments, click on title.

12 comments so far

Your education cost per student is really not a good comparison to the cost per resident.

First, Alaska, Wyoming, Vermont, New York, all pay more in education costs per student than Park Ridge.

Second, how much of the money goes truly to educating the student versus the operating costs of running the schools (utilities for example)?

Third, how much of the money goes into the capital fund to keep the buildings in good shape (HVACs, roofs, etc.)?

If we are only paying $2100 per resident for City Services, then we get what we pay for. We need to increase that amount by a factor of 2 and then the City of Park Ridge can take on the flooding projects.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And per pupil spending in Alaska, Wyoming, Vermont and New York are relevant to Park Ridge how exactly?

Taxes are taxes, whether they go for teachers’ salaries or a new school roof.

If you truly want to “increase that [$2100 per resident for City Services] by a factor of 2,” are you willing to reduce the D-64’s and D-207’s budgets by that same $2100 per resident to offset that increase?

I went to one of those P&Z meetings regarding the 400 Talcott property and the neighbors and most commission members just glossed over the zoning compliance as if the Zoning Ordinance did not matter. Those neighbors have no concept of zoning laws, and after that meeting I have to wonder whether the commission does, either.

If the reason the council went forward with an appeal was NOT to “strategically” drag it out in the hopes that the developer would go away then why did they do it??

EDITOR’S NOTE: Read the newspapers, read the meeting minutes, watch the Council meeting video. And if that doesn’t work, pull out your Magic 8 Ball.

The zoning code says dwelling units are allowed above ground floor commercial B-1 space. What the developer glossed over was that the entire ground floor (except for a tiny 1400 sq ft commercial space) is designed to be …wait for it…residential parking space. And get this while the majority of the building is residential and not B-1 commercial the developer did not have to comply with the residential parking requirements (he could not comply with those residential parking requirements given the foot print of the building so would have needed a variance) but since this primarily residential building is in B-1 he only needs to comply with commercial parking requirements. That should have triggered staff, or the attorneys defending the case (who some say may not have submitted all the discussions at the various commission meetings) to say …wait a minute is this truly a B-1 commercial space? Can someone put a 10x10ft commercial space onto an otherwise residential parking and apartment building and call it B-1? Even our schizophrenic code has enough in it to say that doesn’t fit. Sounds like lawyers and judge took easy way out and simply said no express density requirement stated so go ahead and build apartment building with residential parking and put as little commercial space as you want and it will suffice for B-1. Maybe if the case was presented in full the judge would have realized the problem. Maybe the appellate court will?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Had you cited chapter and verse of the Zoning Code provisions that you claim support all your bold assertions, we might have reason to believe that you actually know something.

But since you “took the easy way out” and didn’t, we have to assume you’re just a disgruntled NIMBY who wants the City to spare no expense fighting your legal battles – even if that means leaving property un- or under-developed and producing minimal tax revenue.

“with essential City services (police, fire, sewer, water, streets, sidewalks), a Library, and those huge-ticket capital improvements such as flood remediation?”

When did “Library” become an “essential city service” – isn’t the library just as essential as education? Also you seem to either want to cut spending on education or force those with kids to bear more of the burden because they use more of that essential service? If the latter then let’s make those that use other essential city services more bear more of the burden – those that don’t drive should pay less for streets repair, those that have t used fire or emt services should pay less (let’s get those freeloading seniors with there false alarm heart attacks to bear the brunt of the emt services) …by pubdog’s faulty logic we can find all kinds of “freeloaders@ that fall into his (I have grown kids or I use private schools so to hell with the public education system that attracts the type of residents all stable communities need who stay and pay long after their kids finishe school, marry have kids and return to this pleasant town to start the cycle all over). Keep beating up the schools and the residents that use them – cut off your nose to spite your face…or at least be honest about your greed and self interest.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Re-read the quote, paying extra-special attention to the parentheses, and you might just figure out that only the parenthetical services were labeled “essential” – even though there are many people in town who would add the Library to that list.

The rest of your comments are just too nonsensical to address item by item, but we’ll address the most lucid one in terms even you might understand: the schools.

Based on the only objective standards of student achievement available (i.e., standardized test results and the rankings based on them), the quality of D-64 schools and Maine South have declined significantly over the last decade or so – even as their cost-per-pupil has consistently increased as more and more money has been paid to underperforming teachers and administrators by rubber-stamp school board members. That decline is why more of the people who used to move to Park Ridge may now be staying in the City and sending their kids to the “free” magnet schools, or moving to suburbs like Glenview, Northbrook, Wilmette, etc. where the property taxes are comparable (or even higher) but the “free” schools are demonstrably better.

Finally, as for this editor’s alleged “greed and self-interest,” he’s one of the many residents whose commitment to this community involves paying all those school taxes while sending their own kids to parochial schools – while saving the rest of the taxpayers $15-20 million (1,000 – 1,500 students @ $15,000 per) EACH YEAR.

But, of course, that’s lost on the freeloaders (like you?) who beef about paying a few hundred dollars of fees and want more, more and more.

Mark Eggemann is the only one who voted this month AGAINST an increase in the annual D64 Property Tax Levy. It was a 6-1 vote. So you can thank Tony Borrelli, Vicki Lee, Scott Zimmerman, Bob Johnson, Dathan Paterno and Tom Sotos for the biggest jump in your property tax bill. And that increase will never go away – the District will just continue to build upon it, year after year, with our taxes soaring ever higher.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s correct, and kudos to Mr. Eggemann.

Unfortunately, the other six people on that board are clueless, spineless and shameless when it comes to rubber-stamping whatever additional money Supt. Heinz and Luann Kolstad (the new Becky Allard) say they need.

9:53:

Of course….the attnys for both sides and a judge took the easy out and only you know he meaning and intent of the code.

PD:

You are the lawyer, not me. As far as I can tell from reading the paper there is no real reason other than trying to screw a developer who appears to have followed the code and based his decision to buy the property on said code in the first place.

“For me, it’s a strategy to drag this out longer and fight it, simply for the reason that I do agree it’s probably not right for the neighborhood as it’s designed,” Milissis said. “I’m OK spending the money to strategically fight this, knowing full well the likelihood of us winning is slim to none.” “So Mr. developer….I know you bought this property based designed your project based on how it was zoned but screw you!!!” We like these citizens better than you even there is zero legal basis for it……but I am OK with that…..you just sit on it for 6-12 months while we appeal”.

Apparently you bitch about wasted taxpayer money unless it goes to a lawyer?? We have elected officials who go against legal advise in favor of a neighborhood because they feel it is “probably” not right. It is completely legal but “probably” not right??!?!?!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wasted taxpayer money is wasted taxpayer money, whether it goes to a lawyer, a teacher, a private vendor, or a banker.

And, frankly, we don’t see how you could have missed that from the post.

Finally, as for this editor’s alleged “greed and self-interest,” he’s one of the many residents whose commitment to this community involves paying all those school taxes while sending their own kids to parochial schools – while saving the rest of the taxpayers $15-20 million (1,000 – 1,500 students @ $15,000 per) EACH YEAR.

Your statement proves my point. You are so upset by your greed and self interest about paying taxes for public schools after you paid for parochial and now have grown kids so no use of schools you now moan and constantly belly ache that too much of our taxes go to our school. Your self interest is too keep the money low for the schools bc you don’t use the schools and didn’t in the past. Yet you accept the benefits of increase value to your residence which in part is bc families still move here (whether they are right about it or in ignorant bliss) bc they feel the schools are worth attending.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Spoken like an anonymous freeloader.

We have NEVER “belly ache[d] that too much of our taxes go to our schools.” Our complaint has always been that all objective indications suggest that those schools are doing less and less with more and more, while accepting no accountability for that foolish and unsustainable combination.

Of course….the attnys for both sides and a judge took the easy out and only you know he meaning and intent of the code.

Go on the website and read it for yourself or look at the revisions that were made after the fact to tighten up the loose ends. The judge apparently did not have a full record and relied on what was presented to him. Don’t get me started on the lawyers. It ain’t brain surgery but if case were presented appropriately it would have revealed that this type of residential parking and apartment building with one tiny nominal portion of commercial space caused all kinds of ambiguities and just didn’t fit when you read the definition in the code of B-1 or the definition of dwellings above ground floor or you look at the commercial v residential parking ratio requirements. I guess by your argument lawyers and trial judges never make mistakes?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Once again, a lot of big bold talk from an anonymous clown with no facts to support conclusions like what might/would have happened “if [the] case were presented appropriately” to address “all kinds of ambiguities.”

Regarding Anon yesterday at 10:49 p.m. — was this in the local press? When did the vote take place?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not that we could find – but, then again, the “local press” does its best to insulate our local schools and school boards from the kind of transparency and accountability it pursues from the City and, to a lesser degree, from the Park District.

The vote took place at the December 14 meeting, and you can watch it on the meeting video.

I hope that whichever law firm the City engages for this dubious appeal considers the ethical implications of using the courts to frustrate an opponent through delay. See e. g. Comment 1 to Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 3.2; “Dilatory practices bring the administration of justice into disrepute. . . . [A] failure to expedite [is not] reasonable if done for the purpose of frustrating an opposing party’s attempt to obtain rightful redress or repose.’ If the quoted comment of Ald. Millissis re the benefit of delay can be imputed to the Council as a whole, the City’s appellate counsel will be on thin ice.



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