Suburban leaders talk Cook Co. sucession

March 7, 2008 6:09:53 PM PST
The Cook County board could face a sales tax revolt.Some suburban communities fear they will lose business to stores in other counties that have a lower sales tax.

In suburban Palatine, some town officials have even talked about seceding from Cook County.

Right now it's talk, but nonetheless a sign of real frustration in the northwest suburbs. They'll have to swallow another tax increase later this year - this one from Cook County, which has a much higher levy than neighboring Lake and Kane counties:

Nowhere will the sales tax increase have a greater impact than in the strip malls along County Line Road. By November, stores on the Cook County side will charge as much as ten cents on the dollar and will have to compete with Lake County retailers a few hundred yards away charging only seven cents.

"Large purchases, I'll be basically looking outside Cook County to save... it could be big amounts on big-dollar purchases," said Roy Wattier, Palatine consumer.

Flooring storeowner Dawn Deutsch says if necessary, her 1-year-old business will discount the tax difference to remain competitive.

"Lake County's just across the street. So we need to motivate them and make them feel comfortable enough to come and purchase from us and pay the extra money," said Dawn Deutsch, Floor Werks owner.

Sales tax revenues are shared by the state and municipal governments as well as counties. Last week, the Cook County board increased its portion from only three-quarters of a cent to one-and-three-quarters of a cent. President Todd Stroger called the increase necessary to maintain services to five and a half million people.

"When you have a county of that size, you're going to have to give a lot of services. It will cost a lot of money," Stroger said.

"Cook County has grown so large and so big that it just can't take care of itself anymore," said Jack Wagner, Palatine councilman.

Wagner has revived a 25-year-old plan that would have the northwest suburbs secede from Cook and form their own, low tax county. He says taxpayers here are tired of paying for expensive services like county hospitals and clinics for the poor and uninsured which northwest suburbanites rarely, if ever use:

"It's not my job to take care of everybody, just like I don't want anybody to take care of me. I take care of myself and I pay for services that I'm going to use," said Wagner.

But President Stroger reminds that a new county also would need a government, including buildings and workers.

"For them to secede, it would actually cost them more than being with the county," said Stroger.

Legal experts said a secession movement also would take years and cost millions of dollars in attorney fees without any guarantees it would be successful. And in the meantime, northwest suburbanites would have to pay the extra penny in sales tax.