Photo by Dermot Connolly
Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury talks to Oak Lawn Community High School District 229 Superintendent Michael Riordan following her “State of the Village” address to the Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon Tuesday at the Hilton Oak Lawn, 9333 S. Cicero Ave.
Since it was Valentine’s Day, Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury chose “Love Oak Lawn” as the theme of the State of the Village speech she gave Tuesday at a luncheon that the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce hosted at the Hilton Oak Lawn.
“Oak Lawn is our home, our heart. What’s not to love about it?” said the mayor, as she launched into her speech about all the good things that are happening in the village.
She said that the $57 million annual budget is funded by $13.9 million in property taxes, with the rest covered by other revenue, primarily sales tax.
“Just 11 percent of your property tax goes to the village,” she noted. “That is an average of $50 a month. Who spends that and more on coffee? It is a great value for all the services provided. We work very hard to keep these costs down.”
“We’ve lowered the tax levy by 6 percent over the last four years. And we’ve lowered the debt as well,” said the mayor. “What Oak Lawn is doing is exceptional. It is unheard of,” said the mayor.
“How were we able to do it? It came from growing the sales tax, and that is a credit to you,” she told the many business owners in the audience. “Residents are getting our Shop Oak Lawn message.”
“Business licenses are growing by leaps and bounds,” continued the mayor. She pointed out that the Chamber of Commerce is “385 members strong,” with 59 new members joining in 2016.
“We had 16 ribbon-cuttings in 2016, and one just this morning for Raising Cane’s restaurant (in the Stony Creek Promenade, at 11006 S. Cicero Ave.),” she said, adding that the new businesses created 1,500 new jobs last year.
The mayor also said that 2,787 building permits were issued in 2016, more than in any of the past 16 years. She said that single-family home permits were also up last year.
She said Oak Lawn property values have been steadily increasing in recent years, and showed graphs illustrating how they have overtaken those in Evergreen Park and Alsip. “With Oak Lawn’s success, we’ve narrowed the gap with Tinley Park, and we parallel Orland Park. We would like to see the gap narrowed further there, and we think we can do it.”
Bury also highlighted the successes of the fire and police departments, citing statistics and cited data available on city-data.com that showing that most crime categories are on a downward trend from 2001 to 2015, the latest year available.
“Oak Lawn is rated among the best the surrounding communities,” she added, pointing out that only Hometown, which is 1/10 the size of Oak Lawn, has a better “crime average” compared to the surrounding communities.
“This is a team effort,” said Bury, thanking members of the village board and the department heads “for making it all possible”.
Among those on the dais with her that she singled out for praise included Village Manager Larry Deetjen, finance director Brian Hanigan, Police Chief Michael Murray, Fire Chief George Sheets, and Diana Tousignant, communications director of the village’s 911 emergency dispatch center. She said the 911 center handled 182,128 calls last year.
No one asked questions following her speech, but Frank Saez, who owns Papa Frank’s Gyro’s, rose to thank Bury and Deetjen for helping him through some difficulties when he first bought the business formerly known as Big Pappa’s Gyros at 10806 S. Cicero Ave. last year.