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Cook forest officials OK hike in tax

Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

With strong bipartisan support mixed with some bipartisan dissent, Cook County Forest Preserve District commissioners Tuesday approved a 2006 budget that includes a hike in the property tax levy.

The 8.5 percent tax increase will help pay for a number of new capital projects such as picnic shelters and educational facilities for the district, as well as improvements at the Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The budget also includes $1 million toward the land-acquisition fund and money for new emergency telephone call boxes in the preserves.

In voting for the budget, commissioners cited the new physical and financial direction of the district under the management of General Supt. Steven Bylina.

"This is a good budget. It's supporting a good district," said Commissioner Gregg Goslin (R-Glenview).

Two Democrats and two Republicans--all but one of them running for County Board president in next year's election--opposed the budget. The district has not done enough to streamline its operation and could have avoided the tax increase, they said.

"There's absolutely no discipline in this budget," said Commissioner Mike Quigley (D-Chicago). Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago), Elizabeth Gorman (R-Orland Park) and Tony Peraica (R-Riverside) joined Quigley in opposing the budget. Commissioner Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood) was absent.

Claypool and Quigley plan to challenge County Board President John Stroger in the March 21 Democratic primary. Peraica is also running for president.

The tax increase will cost an estimated $2.74 more a year for the owner of a $200,000 house.The forest preserve levy accounts for about 1 percent of a typical property tax bill in Cook County.



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