Public input on the proposed increase in Cook County’s sales tax rate will be received July 15.
The County Board’s Finance Committee will conduct a public hearing and committee meeting on board President Toni Preckwinkle’s plan to increase the county’s sales tax rate by 1 percent for pension funds, transportation infrastructure and legacy debt service payments
The public hearing will be at 10 a.m. July 15 in the Cook County Board Room, located on the fifth floor of the Cook County Building, 118 N. Clark St., Chicago. A full County Board meeting will follow at 11 a.m. on the proposed tax hike.
As proposed. the sales tax hike would raise the county’s sales tax rate to 1.75 percent. The county had increased its sales tax rate to 1.75 percent under former board President Todd Stroger, which Preckwinkle campaigned against and led the effort to rescind it. Now, she says, that higher county sales tax needs to be restored.
Preckwinkle said that budget cuts will be made along with the sales tax hike.
“Revenue increases through a sales tax, coupled with significant expenditure cuts, will put the county on firm financial footing for the future and allow us to invest in long-delayed infrastructure improvements, absorb increased legacy debt service costs and pay down our pension shortfalls without further exacerbating the financial crisis for future generations,” Preckwinkle said.
The board president said the sales tax hike is vital to address the significant shortfall in the county’s pension fund. She said the issue has been left unresolved by Springfield.
“We can no longer afford to wait,” Preckwinkle said. “Every month without action creates another $30 million in unfunded pension liability. The current situation is unsustainable.”
The board president said that she gave the warning months ago that fiscal year 2016 would be a challenging one for the county. She said as work begins on the FY 2016 budget, her finance team will be identifying $100 million in targeted expenditure cuts.
The Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce held a town hall meeting this July 8 with county Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st District) to lobby against the proposed tax hike.
“The tax has the potential to negatively impact business sales and burden Cook County residents with a higher cost of living,” the chamber said on its website. “… By making your voice heard, we hope to avoid higher sales and property taxes in Cook County.”
The chamber has an online petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/say-no-to-cook-county-sales-tax-increase. The petition urges county commissioners to vote “no” on the proposed sales tax hike.
“The 1 percentage point increase in the Cook County, IL sales tax suggested by President Preckwinkle will hurt businesses and consumers alike,” the petition states. “We urge all of the commissioners in Cook County to vote “no” to the sales tax hike and look for other solutions outside of a sales or property tax increase to restore the county’s fiscal health.”
— Businesses balk at talk of Cook County sales tax hike —