I sometimes find myself marveling over the masonry and metal structures that Countryside has erected along LaGrange Road (see photo). What is the purpose of these structures? What did they cost? And how could Countryside afford to construct all these doodads?
To investigate the last question I thought we could compare Countryside with its next door neighbor, the perennially penniless Indian Head Park.
Indian Head Park
Median Household Income
Budget (without TIF)
Budget per capita (w/o TIF)
Countryside is about half-again as large as Indian Head Park while IHP shows a slight 10% advantage over Countryside in median household income.
But I want to focus on the last two lines of the table. Note that the Countryside budget is over four times the size of IHP’s. Even on a per capita basis, Countryside’s budget is still almost three times IHP’s.
Of course, Countryside’s budget is much larger because the town is blessed with a huge number of retail establishments, particularly car dealerships and food franchises. This enables the municipal government to rake in all sorts of sales and other taxes.
To continue our comparison:
Countryside Indian Head Park $ % $ %
Budget (without TIF)
State Sales Tax
State Income Tax
Countryside’s property taxes are about half-again-as-much as IHP’s, about in line with their half-again-as-much population. But note the huge State Sales Tax that Countryside brings in – it’s larger than the entire IHP budget! I guess the three secrets to village finances are “location, location, location”.
There’s really not much Indian Head Park can do about this disparity. IHP can continue to attempt to build out the Triangle (the area south of Joliet Road and west of Wolf Road). But that land has been vacant for a while and, with our anemic economic recovery, no one is rushing to buy in.
So, yes, Countryside is awash in cash, so awash in cash that they can easily afford to build civic decorations such as those mini-towers. There are 10 of these strung along LaGrange Road:
- Four at the corner of 57th and LaGrange Road (at the Arby’s/McDonald’s
- Four where 58th dead-ends onto LaGrange Road (near Church’s Fried
- Two at the drainage channel across from Countryside plaza (see second photo).
What are these things? They don’t offer shelter from the storm and they aren’t designed to give foot-weary folks a place to sit. They don’t provide light or give directions or information. They hardly add to the ambiance of LaGrange Road.
Best as I can determine, they are an exercise in pushing the Countryside brand. The mini-towers are evocative of the clock-tower at 55th and Plainfield, and their top white panel displays the new Countryside logo, which itself contains a drawing of the clock-tower.
But are they worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? Surely, the money could have been better spent on, say, residential sidewalks. Or, as I write this there are half-a-million people without power on the East Coast – perhaps Countryside should spend the money on burying their overhead electrical cables. This would not only protect the cables from ice and wind storms, but would be something of a beautification campaign. Or perhaps they could build bus stop shelters. Or lower tax rates. Or maybe give some cash to Indian Head Park. ; )
Of course, Countryside is not the only village around here that’s splurging on civic doodads. A few years ago Western Springs spent hundreds of thousands of dollars dismantling what seemed to me to be a perfectly functional train station. Now that old station was certainly not as cute or picturesque as today’s station but did Western Springs need to spend all that money on “quaint”? And what’s with the non-functioning tower there (see 3rd photo) – who thought that was a good idea?
I used to think that local village governments were more responsible and had less pork in their budgets than the state or federal pork-fests we’re treated to. Now, I’m not so sure.
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Craig's note: the budget numbers above come from the 2011-2012 budgets on respective Countryside and Indian Head Park websites. I apologize for any inadvertent miscategorization.