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Stroger's tax bite: He wants to hike property, gas, parking fees
COUNTY | Looks to add hundreds of workers to payroll

Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON

Going to the store, filling up at the gas pump, parking downtown, talking on the phone or even warming up your furnace could cost more in order to help cover Cook County's 2008 budget.
Board President Todd Stroger is set to unveil his $3 billion budget on Wednesday, but already commissioners are buzzing about what they say Stroger will propose.
In a series of meetings Monday, Stroger told commissioners what to expect.
Property taxes would be hiked to pay for the Forest Preserve District. To pay for county government, Stroger is considering doubling the county gas tax to 12 cents a gallon, doubling the downtown parking tax to about $40 for monthly users and possibly renewing a push for an increased sales tax, just weeks after commissioners shot down a 2 percentage point hike.
Already on the table are hikes to utility and phone bills. "Everything's on the table," Commissioner Mike Quigley said.
There are likely to be hundreds more employees added to the county payroll to meet public safety needs. "It looks like we're off our diet," Commissioner Tim Schneider said.
And while the deficit was pegged at $307 million, commissioners now say they're facing a $230 million hole, thanks to some adjustments.
Adding a wrinkle to the budget debate is a critical presentation today from the health community concluding that the county hospital system has been so mismanaged, control should be put in the hands of an independent, medical panel.
Also today, Stroger will introduce an ordinance to approve the 7 percent property tax cap -- though he's introducing it too late for the board to vote on it immediately, state's attorney officials said.
Stroger must give at least 48 hours' notice for a special meeting to vote on the cap before the county can begin tallying tax rates and preparing tax bills.
With about six weeks needed for that process -- two weeks for preparation and four weeks to pay the taxes -- it pushes dangerously closer to a Dec. 1 deadline before some governments would have to borrow to make ends meet.


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