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Stroger won't talk taxes, promotes cousin

Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger refused to say Tuesday whether he would veto a property tax increase if board members approve one to help fill the county's current budget hole.

Some commissioners have discussed the possibility of raising property taxes to avert drastic service cuts such as closing health clinics and firing prosecutors and sheriff's deputies.

Stroger was elected in November after a campaign in which he pledged that he would not raise taxes in 2007. His budget proposal does not include a tax increase, but it contains many service cuts that have prompted board members to look for ways to raise revenue.

Stroger does not have a vote on the 17-member board so his only decision would be whether to use his veto power. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the $3 billion budget on Feb. 22.

"We will see what they do," Stroger told the Tribune's editorial board on Tuesday. "I've tried not to mix in the commissioners' dealings ... since they get to vote and I don't."

Asked if failing to veto a property tax increase would mean he was violating his campaign pledge, Stroger said, "That's a good question, and I'm not going to say anything to it now.

"I am going to let them do their process. I am not going to interfere in the commissioners working together to figure out what they think is the best for the county."

On Tuesday, measures were introduced that would raise fees on everything from home-alarm systems and ammunition to sulfur dioxide emissions and vehicle impoundment.

The measures were sent to the Finance Committee for consideration.

Also Tuesday, Stroger announced that he was promoting his budget director, Donna Dunnings, to chief financial officer. Dunnings, who is Stroger's cousin, will retain her salary of $142,000.

Thomas Glaser, the current CFO, will move to a new position, chief operating officer of the health services bureau. Glaser's salary will increase to $225,000 from $154,000. Stroger also announced that Joseph Fratto, executive director of the Chicago Park District's pension fund, will replace Walter Knorr as county comptroller.

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