Letters to the editor from Naperville and Plainfield.
I want to commend Tribune columnist Steve Chapman's "How to combat global warming and prosper" (Commentary, July 4). His calling for a carbon tax is right on the mark.
More than 97 percent of climate scientists believe climate change is happening, and that it is caused by human activities. Anything of this gravity and believed to be true by this many experts should be acted upon with earnestness and speed.
And yet it is not.
Climate change is the challenge of our age — the biggest challenge that has ever faced humanity, in fact — and it is a downright shame that climate change has become political and a "debate" in our legislature. The science and the experts are not wrong on this.
The data are in, and so is the verdict: Climate change is happening and will have dire consequences if we do not act immediately.
So what to do? For one, companies and individuals need to make smart, energy-efficient choices that limit their usage of fossil fuels. But this is not always easy, especially when the price of these products does not incorporate the costs of environmental damage or the pollution emitted from using them. I, myself, do not always make the most eco-friendly choices. I could ride my bike or the bus more, but sometimes I just don't.
What would push me to more frequently take part in alternative transportation options that eliminate filling up my car's gas tank? A modest tax increase in fossil fuels that represents their environmental costs.
A carbon tax would incentivize companies and individuals to make smarter decisions regarding fossil fuels, and it would lead to a decreasing output of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. It would not be a burden to our economy either, as Chapman notes: "We could cut carbon dioxide emissions by half over the next decade and a half with a tax that would not be onerous — the equivalent of 16 cents per gallon of gasoline, rising by 4 percent over inflation each year."
A carbon tax would be a market-based solution for the global warming predicament we're in. But it is also the moral and ethical thing to do.
We must not be OK with the zero cost of pumping a pollutant that could wreck the planet into the atmosphere. We as citizens need to demand that Congress put a price on carbon.
— Holly Saari, Naperville
Park District funds
In April of 2009 I had the honor of being elected to serve as a commissioner for the Plainfield Township Park District for a six-year term. The first four years of my term have been a wonderful experience with multiple opportunities to learn and also meet many new people I would not have otherwise had the chance to meet. The park district belongs to our residents. Our organizational chart even lists "public" at the top, followed by "board of commissioners."
This is everyone's park district.
The Plainfield Township Park District has always strived to provide the best possible services, programs and amenities while maintaining financial stability and security. While the board has played a role in this process, a lot of effort and thanks also goes out to our talented and dedicated staff. They have always been able to come up with creative ways to accomplish our goals within budget.
The Plainfield Park District's share of property taxes is approximately 2.6 percent of an overall property tax bill. This amounts to every household paying about $150 to $200 annually from property taxes to the park district.
In 2004 our tax rate was $0.2129 per $1,000 of a home's assessed value. From 2005 through 2008, our tax rate was lower than it was in 2004. In 2011 our tax rate was $0.2126 per $1,000 of a home's assessed value (still lower than 2004, although not by much). For 2012 our tax rate was $0.2433.
For my home this rate reflected an increase of $21.25 to my overall park district portion of my tax bill for a total payment of $188.63 to the park district.
In exchange for our annual tax payment to the park district, we all have access to the recreation centers, Ottawa Street Pool, Normantown Trails Equestrian Center, 63 playgrounds, 58 shelters, 33 football/soccer fields, 32 baseball/softball fields, nine full and 16 half basketball courts, four tennis courts, three sled hills in the winter, two dog parks, two skate parks, two outdoor ice-skating locations in the winter, two sand volleyball courts and one bike park along with trails and open space to enjoy. Please also keep in mind that our tax rate and the comparative amount of tax dollars spent per resident is already below surrounding park districts, including Bolingbrook, Lockport, Oswego, Joliet and Naperville.
Our annual budget has always been available to anyone who has wanted to view it. And in keeping with state law, we have always released a Comprehensive Financial Report for every fiscal year. Every year we have had budget hearings and workshops where everyone was welcome to attend and comment on the new budget.
Members of the new board majority have stated that they want to cut the park district budget. I am concerned because their plan to accomplish this is to not fund the contingency fund, while at the same time spending the current contingency fund that has taken many years to save. The contingency fund is there to meet seasonal shortfalls in revenue, reduce our risk from emergency or unanticipated expenses, and allow us to maintain our AA rating from Standard & Poor's.
Additionally, this fund gives us the opportunity to purchase land or buildings that were not anticipated or available when the budget was prepared. And it also provides for grant matching funds when we are awarded grants that require us to fund a portion of the project the grant was awarded for. This fund has also been allowed to grow with the long-term plan to one day have a recreation center built at Renwick Community Park.
The potential minor amount of savings this move will have on tax bills is not worth the risk it will be to the overall financial well-being of the park district.
— Mary Kay Ludemann, commissioner, Plainfield Township Park District