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  Last year more people used the County's forest preserves than visited Yellowstone National Park.

More new fees surface in Preckwinkle's budget
Jukeboxes, video poker machines would be taxed

Friday, October 28, 2011
Chicago Tribune
by Erika Slife

Cash-operated jukeboxes, pool tables, video poker and other devices could all be hit with new Cook County licensing fees under Board President Toni Preckwinkle's budget plan.

She also wants to double vehicle sticker fees for unincorporated residents ó from $40 to $80 for sedans ó and to raise the cost to park in public garages throughout the county.

The new fee increases were revealed Thursday during a budget hearing with commissioners, who grilled Preckwinkle's budget director, Andrea Gibson, and revenue director, Zahra Ali, about the previously unmentioned hikes in Preckwinkle's $2.94 billion spending plan.

"I'm intrigued by why some (fees) get mentioned, some don't," said Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston.

A Preckwinkle spokesman said the board president did not outline the increases in her budget speech Tuesday because the impact is "minor" compared with other tax and fee increases she's proposing to help close a $315 million deficit next year.

"When the president laid out her budget proposal, she addressed the areas that will affect Cook County residents the most, such as increasing the alcohol tax and charging people to park at county courthouses," said Owen Kilmer. "This issue is minor in comparison."

The estimated 10,000 "automatic amusement devices" found in restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues would earn the county $1.3 million, according to budget documents.

A license for prize-generating machines, such as video poker or slot machines, would cost $225 a machine; other amusement devices, such as video games, pool tables and jukeboxes, would cost $150.

Vehicle sticker fee increases for an estimated 100,000 unincorporated residents could bring in $1.5 million. Motorcycle stickers would go from $25 to $50 and most SUVs would increase from $50 to $100.

Preckwinkle also wants a new tax for unincorporated residents, estimated to be roughly $150 per household, to generate $5.5 million, which would be used to pay for the county services that they rely on, such as public safety.

Motorists who park at public garages would also see their costs go up under a restructuring of the county's parking rates.

Daily parking fees that are more than $2 but lower than $5 would be charged a 50-cent county tax; weekly parking fees that are more than $10 but less than $25, would be charged a $2.50 tax; and monthly parking fees that are more than $40 but less than $100 would be charged a $10 tax.

Preckwinkle also has proposed charging $4.75 for parking at courthouses, which is now free.

Also Thursday, Preckwinkle's administration released a furlough report, which showed that only half of the county's 24,000 employees have taken the five furlough days that were required to help balance the budget this year. That could mean a large number of employees will take days off just as the budget year ends Nov. 30.

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