Thursday, November 12, 2015

Buying Public Land is a Huge Tax Increase and loss of Open Space

When I served on the City Council with Mayors Pierce, Geraci, and Belsky, we worked as ONE government representing the people of Highland Park. We might not have agreed on every issue with the school and park district, but all of us showed the respect for each others office being aware that we all worked for the same citizens.

Whether money is spent by any taxing district in Highland Park, the money comes out of our citizens pockets. Past practice of governments I served on did not monetize land transferred among our districts. A few examples are Moraine Park, the HPCC driving range, and the Aqua Park. In the 90's, the City either gave properties to the Park District for one dollar, or/and swapped the land for other needed public uses like the Central Avenue Fire Station.

Currently, I am reading that the School District 112 wants to buy West Ridge Park for 4 million from the Park District. This would be a huge 4 million dollar tax increase for the citizens of Highland Park. Where does this new money come from? These new acquisition dollars come from increased tax dollars that won't go towards the services the district is mandated to perform. In district 112's case, add this cost on the already over budgeted capital outlays that are considered, and the tax burden grows.

I also will say, we should be creating more open space in Highland Park, not disposing of what we have acquired. The value of open lands and respect for nature is Highland Park. To cash out on our ball fields and greenways would be a mistake.

Highland Park and its governments should never accept a net loss of open space for its residents and should continue to build on the great green work of prior governments. If governments can't agree on a swap then maybe it is not the right choice for our community and citizens. Please don't charge your own citizens for land that they already own and want to keep.