Letters to the Editor, Opinion, Park Forest

To the Editor: Village Must Get Out of the Landlord Business.

To the Editor:

It was with great interest that I read the story regarding Park Forest property taxes that appeared in today’s eNewsPF.

One thing that I believe is important when comparing property taxes in Park Forest to those of other communities is consideration of the extremely large amount of commercial/industrial property in Park Forest that is government-owned and thus generates little if any property taxes. Those properties include the bulk of Industry Park, commercial lots on Route 30, and DownTown Park Forest, all of which were acquired by the Village prior to my time as Mayor, which means they have been in Village hands for at least a quarter of a century at this point.

“The goal never was for the Village to be a landlord.”

What is significant about this is the impact that it has on the property taxes paid by homeowners. Given the unique nature of Cook County property tax collection, industrial/commercial property pays a tax rate roughly twice what homeowners pay. So, if the preponderance of properties that could generate the higher tax rate does not do so, given the Cook County system, the result is that the heaviest burden falls on homeowners.

Get Out of the Landlord Business

As anyone who has served on the Village Board over the last two decades is aware, the goal never was for the Village to be a landlord, but rather for the Village to take properties that were in decline and refurbish them so as to make them marketable for commercial interest. Sadly, that’s never been accomplished, albeit some significant efforts to do so have been made over the years. I accept some responsibility for not pushing harder during my time as Mayor to see these properties sold. I’m not certain at present how much of an effort is being made to sell some or all of them, but I believe it remains important for the Village get out of the landlord business as quickly as possible. 

Just some observations.

John A. Ostenburg

John A. Ostenburg retired in 2019 after 20 years as mayor of Park Forest, Illinois. He previously served in the Illinois House of Representatives. Before becoming mayor, served seven years on the Park Forest municipal council.