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Palatine will get chance to pepper Stroger
Officials will ask what Palatine will get from tax hike

Friday, April 04, 2008
Daily Herald

Palatine officials still fuming over Cook County's sales tax hike will get their sit-down with Cook County Board President Todd Stroger later this month.

As promised, Stroger is set to attend a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. April 30 at the Wojcik Conference Center at Harper College.

What Stroger says could fuel efforts in Palatine and other communities to break off from Cook County, which some say has gotten too big for its bureaucratic britches.

"I'm not trying to start a war," Councilman Jack Wagner said. "But if the people of Palatine are going to send the county an extra $4.5 million each year, I want to know whether we're getting $4.5 million worth of extra services."

Palatine's sales tax rate is 8.75 percent, while abutting Deer Park's, in Lake County, is 6.5 percent.

The disparity will grow July 1, once the new Palatine sales tax rate hits 10 percent -- more than 3 percentage points more than Lake County's.

Border towns like Palatine fear the sales tax hike will push even more shoppers to neighboring counties. Officials said the village could lose $620,000 in annual revenue.

"This meeting isn't so much about leaving Cook County but to help us secure our economic future," Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins said.

She wants to know why an estimated $426 million -- the amount the new sales tax is projected to raise -- is necessary to plug a $230 million hole in the budget.

She also plans on asking Stroger what additional services, if any, the village will receive with the new money. The county's contribution to Palatine is minimal to begin with, Mullins said. It maintains just 3 percent of the village's roads, for example.

Stroger's camp said answers are coming.

"The president is going to explain what the county provides for Palatine and explain that the tax hike is to make sure services like quality health care and public safety are maintained," said Stroger spokeswoman Ibis Antongiorgi.

To form a new county, 51 percent of voters within the new boundaries must sign a petition to put the proposal on the ballot. It would require approval by a majority of all Cook County voters.

Joining Lake County would require approval by a majority of voters in both counties.

State legislators recently introduced a bill to both the House and Senate that would make succession easier. If passed, only voters in the breakaway area would need to OK the move.

The public will have the opportunity to submit questions about the tax hike and secession at the April 30 meeting, Mullins said. The conference center features a 250-person auditorium.

"I'm hoping from this dialogue there may come new ways to partner and cooperate to improve efficiencies of service," Mullins said.

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