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County TB tax ends as district shuts down

Monday, March 26, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

When Cook County property tax bills hit suburban mailboxes later this year, they will be the first in 60 years without a line for the Suburban Cook County Tuberculosis Sanitarium District.
The district, which funds TB prevention in the suburbs, will dissolve July 25 -- and so will the tax bill line devoting dollars to it.
That will mean all of about $2 less on most bills. It also marks the end of a district that was swept up in much controversy in recent years.
Its recent leaders have spent millions on attorneys and politically connected consultants, while also attempting to snare golden parachutes for retiring employees and even board members.
All this as it became the only remaining taxing district devoted solely to TB care.
Maintain funding, Butler says
"This has been a long time coming," said Laurence Msall of the Civic Federation, a budget watchdog group that has heavily analyzed and criticized TB district operations.
And though the taxing district will be gone, suburban TB programs will be taken on by the Cook County Department of Public Health.
Also being taken over by the county will be the TB district's 49 employees and five buildings.
The TB district has about $14 million in surplus funds that will fund TB efforts for about two years, officials said. After that, the County Board will have to decide whether to return the TB line item to property tax bills, hike the health department's share of taxes to cover program costs, or make cuts so it will have no impact for taxpayers.
Commissioner Jerry Butler, who said he has "an inactive strain" of TB, said the county can't afford to stop funding preventive programs.
County health chief Dr. Stephen Martin said the county doesn't have appropriate space at its facilities for TB patients or for decades of files, so they'll likely continue using clinics in Evanston, Des Plaines, Harvey and Forest Park.

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