Cook County shaves its sales tax 0.5% rollback a start, some say
Thursday, July 01, 2010
by Duaa Eldeib
In an economy that's still struggling, clothing store manager Bob
Geish is optimistic that even a small rollback of Cook County's sales
tax will be good for business.
The county's sales tax drops a half
a percentage point Thursday to 1.25 percent. Geish, manager of Red 21
in Burr Ridge, is hopeful that it will keep customers coming to his
store instead of traveling to another county or state with lower taxes.
think it will have a positive impact. I really do," said Geish. "I
think everyone, regardless of their economic status, is concerned with
money right now."
Geish's shop is tucked away in the Burr Ridge
Village Center, an upscale lifestyle shopping complex that competes not
only with shops in Burr Ridge that fall in DuPage County but also with
Oakbrook Center mall 15 minutes away.
"We heard it from our customers
and our surveys, the sales tax issue was affecting their decision of
where they want to shop," said Scott Rolston, general manager of Burr
Ridge Village Center.
"Every little bit helps," he said. "I wish
they would roll it back even further, but this is good news. It's a step
in the right direction."
As a result of the reduction in Cook
County's portion of the sales tax, the overall sales tax rate in Chicago
will drop from 10.25 percent to 9.75 percent, reducing the cost of a
$1,000 purchase by $5.
The overall tax rate in at Oakbrook Center
in DuPage, by contrast, is 7.75 percent. In Burr
Ridge, the sales tax dropped to 8.75 percent from 9.25 percent as a
result of the Cook County rollback.
Opinions from shoppers on the
slight rate drop were mixed, with geography playing a large part in the
Jan Roberts of Chicago, who began shopping online after
County Board passed the penny-on-the-dollar tax in 2008, doesn't
think the rollback will affect how she shops. She found she liked
hunting for online deals that often included free shipping.
doesn't seem like a dramatic amount to reduce it by," she said. "I don't
think it will change my spending habits."
The tax dip won't
change where David Seeber spends his money either ó largely because the Columbia
College senior can't go very far.
"I live in the city, I'm
21, and I ride a unicycle," Seeber said. "I can't get to another county
to do my shopping if I wanted to."
Shopping for tax breaks is
easier for those near the county's borders. Janet Meyer said she has
seen the disparity the sales tax has created in her communities. Meyer
is the president of the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce, which
serves businesses in Cook, Lake, McHenry and Kane counties.
county sales tax hike has been hard on Cook County businesses, but
they've persevered, she said.
"This little bit of change is a
welcome relief for the stores that have survived and reinvented
themselves over the past year and a half," said Meyer, who expects to
see business pick up for chamber members in Cook County when families
begin their back-to-school shopping.
Even with the reduction,
Chicago maintains the distinction as having, with Los
Angeles, the highest sales tax rate in the country, according the
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.
"We lobbied against the increase
and we've been lobbying for the other half percent to be rolled back in
order to get ourselves competitive with other states, and more
importantly, other counties," said Jerry Roper, president of the
Cook County Board President Todd
Stroger had championed the 1 percentage-point sales tax increase,
and vetoed several attempts by commissioners to reduce it. His
insistence on the higher tax, which he said was necessary for reasons
that included continued health care for the poor in Cook County,
contributed to his overwhelming defeat by Chicago Ald. Toni Preckwinkle
in February's primary for the Democratic nomination for board president.
tax hike led many people to look for ways to save money, including Eric
of Chicago. After the tax increase passed, Medina and his wife began
combining shopping trips with visits to family in Aurora.
couldn't say for sure if the decrease will have him shopping closer to
home. Frank Elton, who works in south suburban Steger,
said the rollback wasn't anywhere near big enough.
economy the way it is now, I don't think it's going to do much of
anything," said Elton, whose wife owns a restaurant on the Cook County
side of the village, which straddles Will County. "Roll it back three
pennies. That'll make a difference."
Mike Pietrusinski agrees. If
he's buying electronics or clothes, the resident of Chicago's South
Deering neighborhood said he prefers to make the 5-mile ride to
Hammond. The sales tax in Chicago is too much for him.
to 7 or 8 percent," he said. "That's going to bring people back."
Rep. Mark Walker, D-Arlington Heights, wants to eliminate the remaining
half percentage point of the original county tax hike, bringing it back
to .75 percent.
Walker, who introduced legislation that helped
commissioners pass the rollback after Stroger's vetoes, is working with
county Commissioner Timothy Schneider, R-Streamwood, on the additional
"I think the (half-point) rollback will bring some
relief, but most of it will be psychological because we need to (cut) it
further to have economic relief," Walker said.