Mayor Sandra Bury defended her administration’s decision to provide a huge property tax incentive to a political ally, with misleading information, before turning the response into an attack on the District 123 school board members that served from 2010 to 2014.
Barney Leifker, a former District 123 school board member had commented on the Oak Lawn Leaf’s Facebook page, and elsewhere, that the business that was given the tax break would have come to Oak Lawn without the reduction in the tax assessment. The business, Culver’s Restaurant, is owned by Guy Hollis. His brother, Scott, unsuccessfully sought election as a Village Trustee in the village with the support of his brother and the Mayor’s political organization.
Leifker, noted on Facebook that the reduced assessment would take property tax money away from the park district, schools and the library and effect the village less because it is able to charge a sales tax.
Bury responded quickly with a factually inaccurate statement “Barney, that decision is a county decision”. While the County Assessor does calculate the assessment reduction, both Village Manager Larry Deetjen and Village Attorney Pat Connelly stated publicly that the reduction could not be given by the County of Cook without the village approving it.
Bury then turned the conversation into an attack on Leifker’s service as an unpaid school board member claiming that the tax levy for District 123 was increased an average of 3.26% during the years 2010 through 2014 when Leifker was on the board. School Districts are limited to increasing the tax levy by either 5% of the previous year’s levy or CPI, whichever is less. During the years in question, the US Department of Labor reports that the CPI was 1.6 percent, 3.2 percent, 2.1 percent, and 1.5 percent.
Bury wasn’t clear where she procured her 3.26% average since the allowable average based on the US Department of Labor’s numbers would only be 2.2% if the board levied the maximum amount.
Leifker did respond to Bury’s attack noting that District 123 works under a “balanced budget” claiming that the Mayor’s administration is still kicking the can down the road on pensions and operating with deficits. Bury compared the village’s tax levy to the school’s noting that during the same period, most of which she was not serving, the village’s tax levy was reduced. She then noted that the levy was even further reduced after her election in 2013.
Neither Bury nor Leifker noted that the Village of Oak Lawn instituted the largest tax increase in the history of the Village of Oak Lawn when Bury and her allies imposed a $2.2 million dollar annual utility tax increase upon Oak Lawn’s residents and businesses. School districts do not receive utility taxes or sales taxes relying primarily on property taxes.