Time For City Council To Consider Population Issues


How many residents should Park Ridge have?

We don’t know.

But the recent proposed 34-townhouse development for the Mr. K’s property has caused us to once again consider that question. And we think the Park Ridge City Council should do likewise – sooner rather than later, given how regularly the issue pops up, directly and indirectly, in the context of re-zoning or zoning variances for new developments.

New 3d Ward Ald. Gail Wilkening apparently is thinking about this. So are two of Park Ridge’s zoning and land use mavens, Pat Livensparger and Missy Langan.

All of them cited one of the most significant reasons why the size – and demographics – of Park Ridge’s population is important: More school-aged children mean more students receiving expensive Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 and Maine Twp. High School District 207 educations that will end up being paid primarily by the majority of taxpayers whose kids aren’t getting those expensive public educations, including some of whom are also paying out-of-pocket for private/parochial educations.

That situation already is producing some problematic responses.

From talking to a few local RE brokers, we’re hearing that empty nesters are downsizing sooner than they used to, or are moving out of Park Ridge entirely and heading to lower-taxed communities. And in most instances, the homes they are moving out of are being purchased by young families with multiple school-aged kids – and the prospect of more on the way.

The math is simple, albeit a bit rough because of all the variables that need to be taken into consideration. So to make it a bit easier, we’ll use a residence with a $15,000 RE tax bill as our example.

Almost $6,000 of that $15,000 tax bill goes to D-64, while D-207 gets around $5,000. The City of Park Ridge gets a meager $1,700 and the Park District even less.

So with D-64 per-pupil costs closing in on – if not already at – $16,000, our sample residence creates a $10,000 deficit  if only one kid from that residence attends a D-64 school. If two attend that deficit grows to $26,000 and likely crests at $42,000 for those homes where three kids are in grades K-8.

Which means that it takes 7 empty nests being taxed at that same $15,000 rate to subsidize the educational costs of just that one 3-student residence.

Or looking at it another way: If each of D-64’s roughly 4,500 kids were dispersed as tax-optimally as possible, each of them would reside in one of 4,500 individual homes, each of which would be paying $6,000 in taxes to D-64 while drawing out $16,000 in education, producing $10,000-per-home deficits totaling $45 MILLION overall. And that $45 MILLION deficit would have to be absorbed by the other 9,500 of the roughly 14,000 Park Ridge residences, at an average cost of roughly $4,700 per residence per year.


Yes, we know: These calculations aren’t adjusted for variables like the contributions of commercial taxpayers, or the fact that D-64 also takes in some areas outside of Park Ridge proper, etc. That’s why we labeled them “rough.” But these calculations also aren’t adjusted to reflect the reality – as we understand it – that more Park Ridge residences have RE bills below $15,000 than above; and that the students are not distributed in that tax-optimal manner.

Meanwhile, according to the “Illinois-At-A-Glance Report Card” for the 2015-16 school year, the D-64 per-pupil cost of $15,613 was $2,600 more than Glenview D-34 ($13,013); $5,000 more than Mt. Prospect D-57 ($10,663); $3,000 more than Arlington Hts. D-25 ($12,610); $5,000 more than Western Springs D-101 ($10,602); and $800 more than Wilmette D-39 ($14,804).

And according to that same source, the average D-64 teacher salary (“for teachers over the past 5 years… calculated by using the sum of all teachers’ salaries divided by the number of FTE teachers.”) was $85,970, while Glenview D-34’s was $61,207; Mt. Prospect D-57’s was $57,996; Arlington Hts. D-25 was $72,962; Western Springs D-101’s was $60,417; and Wilmette D-39’s was $76,425.

Needless to say, D-64’s average teacher salary accounts for a significant part of D-64’s higher costs.

Hence our, and many of our readers’, concern when facially-legitimate third-party ratings, rankings or other evaluations show our schools performing below many of its competitors.

It’s one thing to pay less and get less, but quite another to pay more and get less.

That’s why we think it’s time for the City Council to start a public debate about the further proliferation of multi-family residential, especially through up-zoning and variances, that could – because of its impact on our schools – adversely affect the value of Park Ridge property in ways that have the potential for becoming more significant than flooding and jet noise now are.

To read or post comments, click on title.

21 comments so far

I can’t believe (well I can which is pathetic) that this project is even being considered. Washington School where the children of this development would attend is stuffed to the gills already if the cost per pupil is $16,000 today what will it be after a multi million dollar addition (probably at a price 25% higher than it should be because the school board is clueless about such matters)? The City Council MUST act immediately on this issue!

To add as an FYI it has been rumored that the JD Kadd property is for sale. Any bets on a proposed zoning change on that site when the time comes?! Perhaps if we get a handle on this whole Mr.Ks thing it will send a message that Park Ridge may not be all that interested in multi family “squeeze “em, pack “em and stack “em developments. One could only hope. It’s time to consider impact vs benefit.


See Park Ridge Herald Advocate regarding 7th ward Alderman appointment, posted this morning.

The Advocate Facebook version has posted a story about Marty Joyce becoming the new 7th Ward alderman. The story also reports that he might want to let Mr. K’s become residential. Big mistake with more residences going up across Higgins that will make the Mr.K’s propperty more valuable for commercial.

Jim Argionis has a good comment about the Mr. K’s situation on the Concerned Homeowners site:

The high rise residential building on the chicago side of Higgins is actually a great reason to preserve the commercial space across the street. The real estate term for what is now desired from those living in high rise residential is the “20 minute bubble” where residents can get all they need within 20 minutes and without getting on a highway. Commercial space across the street may get more valuable when you consider how many new residents will be walking distance away.

The site on which Whole Foods currently sits was approved for a 168 multi unit. Had that development gone through we would not have had the fantastic commercial addition to park ridge. We need to think long term not short term.

Argionis is right. There is no reason to change the commercial zoning for Mr. K’s to accommodate multi-family residential just because the owner now, finally, wants to cash out. I for one am glad we have a Whole Foods on Touhy instead of 168 condo units.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As are we. But remember: The then-members of the Planning & Zoning Commission AND then-mayor Howard Frimark and his alderpuppets approved that condo project before (reportedly) The Recession sidetracked it long enough for Whole Foods to come along.

We used to have more people in Park Ridge back in the 70s than we have now, so I don’t see why suddenly “population” is such a big issue.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the cost of education has significantly outpaced inflation and, therefore, is much more of a burden on taxpayers than it was back then – when Park Ridge schools were considered some of the best in the Chicagoland area.

Anon 8:09 you may be correct but as a grammar school student in the late 70’s and early 80’s I can tell you the schools then had significantly lower enrollment then compared to today. Schools were torn down and replaced with single family housing (can’t remember the names but it happened). 5th and 6th grade classes were even combined at Washington for a time. Let’s not confuse overall population with enrollment at schools.

In the 70’s we were closing schools. Too bad we didn’t have a crystal ball. And paying what we pay for D64 these days no one wants trailers for classrooms. Not sure what the answer is, or if there even is an answer. Time for a magic wand!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Too bad our school administrators and board members back then weren’t as sharp as those who ran New Trier: When enrollment went down they turned they NTWest into a community education/activity center until such time as enrollment increased and they reopened it as NTWest.

Back in the 70s we had three more K-6 school buildings then we have now. In the 80’s – 2000’s additions were added to elementary schools and new a new middle school built to avoid using classroom trailers and that was before the boom of multi-family in the last 10 years. Not to mention the old Embers site and single lot residential subdivisions into two or three new lots.

I don’t agree with your premise whatsoever. If they were building million dollar homes on Higgins, you would be all for it. If they were building million dollar homes on Greenwood, you would be all for it.

So now that they are building affordable homes, it’s let’s stop building residential properties. You are trying to solve the school district cost / budget problems by curtailing the natural growth of the city. The city and park district will get more monies out of the residential properties that they will not spend dollar for dollar. They are better managed. The cost of education is what it is. If you don’t like how much you have to pay in real estate taxes you have the option to move. It is similar to the State of Illinois because their finances were poorly managed, if you don’t want to pay more monies you have the option to move.

The bigger question you should start asking is why does Lutheran General Advocate, where they make millions of dollars per year, not pay any property taxes?!?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Those “million dollar homes on Higgins” and Greenwood would each be paying a lot more in RE taxes per household than those townhouse projects, and with less kids per household using the schools.

No doubt the City and Park District “are better managed” than the school districts – and more transparent and accountable, to boot. But the City and the Park District combined consume less than half the RE taxes D-64 does – the main reason being their mismanagement and the cavalier/brainless attitude that “[t]he cost of education is what it is.” With that attitude, you might just be one of the D-64 board members or administrators.

And if you don’t know why LGH doesn’t pay property taxes, we’re not going to tell you.

A review of D64 meeting minutes reveals that schools in PR are getting over crowded so much so that Jefferson school may need to be converted back to a grammar school. Unfortunately the conversion to meet requirements for a grammar schools will cost millions. Can anyone say with certainty that 34 new 3 bedroom dwellings will be occupied by individuals without children that will attend D64 schools?
Also with all the new commercial activity in uptown why not focus on new commercial activity in South Park and the Higgins corridor. The building with D`Agostinos was once thought would be 75% empty but now is fully occupied.
Higgins and Dee is a perfect spot in PR for commercial space.

Do we have any idea as to how many kids live in the new apartments at NW Hwy and greenwood and N the new townhouses North and South of Touhy. If so, how many are grammar school. middle school and High school age. I am just curious as to if these new developments are attracting empty nesters over families with kids.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We do not recall hearing about or seeing any such reports, although one would think the school districts would make it a point to have them – and publicize them if there are a significant number of students coming out of those residences.

For anyone truly interested or concerned, Planning and Zoning commission will have a public hearing on this proposal on Tues June 13th at 7pm. Support material is posted on the City website for this meeting.

A. Johnson @ 3:07 – Add to those the townhouses on Dee Road south of Touhy and the apartments next to Whole Foods and in the Chase building? Should be relatively easy for D64 & D207 to pull that information. Question is, will they? Paging Messrs. Biagi and Sanchez, how about a report?

The proposed development is going back before PNZ on Tuesday June 13. Developer shrunk his project from 34 to 31 townhomes. Anyone interested should show up at the meeting.

The Higgins Corridor Plan (see PR website ) specifically calls for Mr. K land to be developed as commercial.

As to the school crowding issue, D64 itself posted about soaring enrollment , including at Washington -the School into which these proposed tow homes would feed:

Respectfully disagree with some of the people responding to this post. A residential development is more sustainable than a commercial one. Big box retail or hospitality does not fit the character of our community. The total population in PR is similar to what it was in 1999 (37,866) vs. 2014 37,856. What appears to be changing are the demographics. Property Taxes in PR are not as out of sight as they used to be in comparison to surrounding communities who adapted a tax and spend culture versus the frugal spending environment the late Mayor Schmidt worked so hard to establish. Approve the residential development!

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Big box retail” would never fit on that site, so that’s red herring.

As for “hospitality” not fitting “the character of our community,” until it was converted into The Summit, we had “hospitality” in the center of town. The “character” of our community – at least with respect to commercial uses – varies depending on the area. And the “character” of the Higgins Corridor is far more commercial than residential. So that’s red herring argument, too.

Really get a kick out of anon 6/5 suggesting that if we don’t like things WE should move. Forgetting all together that when people research communities to move to, they base that decision on what is currently there, not what might be there in the future. The changing demographic is far more developer initiated than City. Quite frankly they’re interest in solely in profit, what happens after they’re project is finished and sold is of no matter to them what so ever. Do you really think they care how many school aged children will live in any of their units, or how our schools, parks, police or fire depts will be impacted? NO! no they do not. They care about how many units they can squeeze on to a lotto insure the greatest profit period.

This is why we have a zoning ordinance, to review by a process the pros and cons of any development and to ensure that it meets ALL the standards within that ordinance along with the comprehensive Plan and separate Higgins Plans that the City invested in.

Changing the Zoning on a lot from business to residential, or vice versa or even from single family to multi family should never be done in haste, as the long term impacts or unintended consequences may not be what we bargained for.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Also let’s not forget the self-interested property owners – like Mr. K’s – who want to max out the value of their property as quickly as possible not that they made the decision that they want out.

In reference to my previous post, how many kids are in these new developments, it appears that no one knows. The D64 meeting regarding increased enrollment does not provide any meaningful data re this issue. Thus, how can we have a informed discussion as to will we have more students as a result of these new developments no one appears to know. The increase in enrollment may be due to older home owners selling to younger families. We could be having residents in new developments contributing tax dollars to the schools without the benefit of kids using the resources.

So A Johnson @3:38pm…if our schools are at capacity –which we have heard at franklin Washington and field (meaning space not allocated for classrooms need to now be converted for use as classroom -auditorium stage for music etc …should we just put our heads in the sand and hope no new kids move into the 31 new townhomes or the still to be built/occupied other town homes, apartments and condos??
One of the criteria in the zoning ordinance for allowing a change of zoning like the one requested is whether the city’s existing infrastructure including schools, roads, police etc are adequate prior to allowing the change.

Also –the Higgins Corridor plan (significant time and money went into that back in 2010) should be ignored when it specifically says the Mr K property should be developed into commercial property even if that developmemt takes “10 or more years” to happen?? Why spend money on a zoning/planning vision/plan if we are going to just ignore it and piecemeal approve projects?
The smell of the mr k property is annoying but did me k predate the homes to the north of it?

All of this is on the City’s radar. At a meeting a few weeks ago, I asked our staff to request enrollment data for some of the “new” developments in town to see if the developer’s claims about expected demographics actually match up to the final results.

At the same meeting I asked the CP&D Director start researching the use of “impact fees”, as other municipalities have implemented. We currently have nothing on the books that allows us to implement these fees.

Stay tuned.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Good to hear, Alderman. For too long the City seemed to ignore what could be a catastrophic problem, economically, for the City.

It would be interesting to see how the claims match reality, but remember that these new multi-family residences are a 30-40-50 year proposition. So, given that the RE taxes allocated to D-64 don’t come close to covering the cost of even one child in the District (e.g., $5,000 of taxes for $16,000 of education costs), is any developer going to cough up $100,000 of “impact fees” to cover just one kid in each unit for even just one stretch of K-8 education – not adjusting for inflation?

It would help if there was housing in PR that would encourage empty nesters to stay. I’m in my 50’s, have lived here 25 years and have never used the PR schools. PR needs more people like me! I pay $15,000 per year in taxes and don’t use many services. My house is too big. I need to move but don’t want a condo. The townhomes being built here are too big and too vertical. I would love to see townhomes such as those at the Glen that have master bedroom/bath on the first floor. Or even some upscale single family homes that aren’t huge would be nice. Many people want to age in place. Sadly, I will be probably have to relocate to find what I need. And my tax contribution will be going with me. Most likely my home will be sold to someone with children who use the schools. So not a good deal for the PR tax coffers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What you describe is what we have written about on several occasions, such as our 08.10.16 post – except that if you have “never used the PR schools” you are a benefactor whose departure from Park Ridge will be a mini-catastrophe, economically.

The people benefitting from those major deltas between taxes and educational costs don’t want to do the math because the math doesn’t work.

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