Taxes, education and violence: Is it time to leave Chicago for the suburbs?

Taxes, education and violence: Is it time to leave Chicago for the suburbs?
Suburban life

Is it time to move out of the city of Chicago? 

Are you raising a family in the city of Chicago?  Is it time to leave?  Is it time to move to Evanston?  Maybe you’re thinking Oak Park, Evergreen Park or Berwyn?  Maybe Park Ridge? 

Have you had enough?    Have you started your pros and cons list?   

Considering Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s push to raise property taxes $588 million, the cons are getting heavier.  That adds $543.00 to the tax bill on a home valued at $250,000.00.  Is your home worth $500,000.00?  Add $1,086.00 to your property taxes. 

And that property tax doesn’t include new fees on garbage hauling, increases on building permit fees, taxes on ride sharing and taxi trips. 

Get out your wallet Chicago. 

Oh, and by the way, Chicago Public Schools is underfunded by HALF A BILLION dollars and will have to lay off more teachers and staff if the state of Illinois doesn’t fund that gap. 

That fact alone should give Chicago families pause: CPS is relying on the state of Illinois—which is almost three months overdue on passing a budget—to fund a $500 million gap.  All to fund a lackluster school district (to put it kindly).  Good luck with that. 

Is Oak Park starting to look better to you? 

Years ago, my sister-in-law came to visit our Chicago home.   She lives in suburban Kansas City and was used to a certain ease that went with it.  She couldn’t understand something as everyday as street parking:  “You have to find a different spot in the street every day when you get home from work and lug the car seat to and from the car down the block?!?”

Getting our kids into the house from the truck was always a chore and at times an adventure.  Whereas, she was used to zipping into her warm garage, closing the garage door and getting her children out of her truck. 

There was an arrogance we had living in Chicago.  We can deal with street parking.  We can deal with traffic.  We can deal with bullshit parking tickets and red light cameras and revenue schemes city government thinks up to fund itself.   It’s not easy living in the city, but in the end it’s worth it. 

But is it? 

My breaking point happened in late February 2013.  We had another overnight snowfall.  It was still dark out and I was outside clearing my wife’s truck of snow so she could load the children in the truck and take them to daycare before getting herself to work.  I was a couple weeks away from my 40th birthday.  Finally I said: This is bullshit.  Why am I outside in the cold, shoveling this truck out at 6:00am?  I don’t need to live like this.  The following week, we put our place on the market and moved to the suburbs.   

It wasn’t just the snow—although that was my breaking point.  Our children were four and one at the time, so getting into a good school district was important.   We didn’t want to have to wrestle, beg or grease someone to get our children into good schools.  So we moved.  Now, our son puts on a backpack and the school bus comes to our front door.  He gets on the bus and goes to an excellent school.   No wrestling.   No going through my network for help.  No greasing school administrators.   No need for our five year old son to take a test to get into kindergarten at a decent school.    

The fact that a city has to spend money and create Safe Passage zones for school children to get to and from school safely is absolutely ridiculous.  And we become immune to its ridiculousness.  It’s just part of life in the big city. 

In Chicago, we were anonymous on our block.  Now, I know and hang out with my neighbors.   We eat and drink together.  It is easy to get to the store and back.  I don’t need to do all my errands before 10:30am to beat traffic.  There’s no puke and beer bottles on my lawn (and I have a lawn and a yard that the kids play in!).  We can load our children into and out of our cars without leaving the freaking house and dealing with snow.  Something as simple as not having to dig out a truck and put lawn furniture into the street to save a parking spot makes it worth it to me. 

And I haven’t mentioned the nine people killed and 45 people shot in Chicago last weekend.

There are drawbacks.  We complain about restaurant choices which are average at best.  We’re much less likely to take advantage of the many cultural options the city provides than when we could take a cab to theater and back.  My commute is 26 miles as opposed to seven.  Oh, and I suppose my taxes went up too. 

But restaurants are our major complaint.   Restaurants.     

We don’t worry about random violence.  We don’t worry about our kids’ education.  We feel safe.  We can deal with average restaurants.    

It is so much (expletive deleted) easier to live in the suburbs. So.  Much.  Easier.   

With the state of Chicago Public Schools and the tax increase—is it time for families to flee for the suburban life?  Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. 

Filed under: Change of Pace, Chicagoist


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  • "I was a couple weeks away from my 40th birthday. Finally I said: This is bullshit. Why am I outside in the cold, shoveling this truck out at 6:00am? I don’t need to live like this".

    This reminds me so much of an episode I had back in 1978, I was 24 at the time and two months later I not only moved out of the city I moved out of the state and have never looked back.

    I am now in Texas. Good schools, no snow, tons of restaurants, low property taxes, a state budget surplus and no state income tax.

    My brother has recently bought a home in Wisc and will be leaving the city soon.

    Why anyone would live in Chicago is beyond my comprehension.

  • In reply to cubbybear7753:

    Trust me, I get the argument for moving over the border to Wisconsin or Indiana. I won't go that far-- yet. Ask me in another five years.

  • It's already too late.

    You have one red herring, though: Rauner did sign the education budget. Apparently, what CPS wants is a half billion in pension relief, or some kicker from the state in addition to the education budget. However, pension reform is precluded by the court decisions and the union situation.

    With two killings about a half mile north of his home, but on the same street, I doubt that President Obama wants to move back.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, I need you editing my posts and further educating me-- your input would make my rants better!.

    Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting.

  • Good idea Brian! But I have doubts about the educational level in the suburbs and I am not sure that my kids won't be searching for some additional info on the subject. For example looking for term paper guide can lead them to such page that may force them to cheat! And in this case local schools have no tools to caught them.

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    Interesting information for sure! We just moved to Gurnee, IL in a community by Freedom Homes, and so far I have really liked it! The schools seem to be good around us. I hope it stays that way.

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