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Hikes likely, but Stroger budget delay drags on

Friday, December 24, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON

It appears Cook County commissioners will have just eight weeks to analyze how County Board President John Stroger wants to spend more than $3 billion while running county government next year.

And it's also likely that Cook County taxpayers will be asked to cough up more.

Commissioners are now scheduling individual, closed sessions with Stroger's budget staff, with the expectation that a budget will be formally presented late next week or even in early January.

The budget is generally introduced in the fall and passed in early December, but after a tenacious, monthslong budget battle last year, Stroger has taken much more time to present this year's.

Last year marked the first time in Stroger's 10-year reign as board president that commissioners didn't approve his initial budget.

While a majority were successful in forcing Stroger to cut and avoid an increase in sales and lease taxes, the cigarette tax was hiked to help balance the 2004 budget.

Stroger hasn't said much about the 2005 budget, except that it's coming "very soon" and a property tax hike will be a last resort.

Stroger has said in the last two months that the budget shortfall has been whittled from $252 million to $70 million, but asked Thursday when a formal tax-and-spend plan will come, Stroger spokeswoman Caryn Stancik stuck to the same timeline Stroger has cited.

"Very soon," she said.



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