Stroger meets with suburban residents angry over tax increase

PALATINE People in the village of Palatine are so angry about it that there's been talk about seceding from the county.

Stroger showed up at a community meeting to talk about it.

It was like Lou Piniella walking into a room of South Side Sox fans. He was not going to be popular no matter what he did.

But Stroger hoped to at least explain a few of the reasons why the tax increase is necessary. Many residents and leaders blame Stroger for one of the highest combined county sales taxes in the nation. Many business owners believe it puts them at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in other counties nearby.

"I don't trust you guys, and that's a major, major problem," said Jeff Milstein, business owner.

Palatine leaders say they're putting more into the county budget than they're getting back. They believe the suburbs are subsidizing services in the city.

"We added up that some of the services we're getting and it came to just a little bit over $3 million. And that was being generous," said Mayor Rita Mullins, Palatine. "But we're going to be paying $18 million. So it just does not compute."

President Stroger backed out of an earlier commitment to attend a meeting in Palatine several weeks ago and on Monday night confronted questions head on and tried to offer a defense of the tax increase.

"Until February of this year, Cook County had restricted itself trying to pay for 2008 services with 1992 dollars," said Stroger.

Many residents say they're dissatisfied with those answers and that's led to talk among political leaders there of ceding from Cook County. It's a difficult proposition to get approved in Springfield, but some say it's their only option.

"But the conversation has to start. If you guys are not going to listen to us, then we do need to figure out a way to secede from Cook County," said Rep. Suzi Bassi, 54th District.

It's not likely Palatnie could do that, and the county board would fight the idea. But a number of local leaders say they still believe it's an idea they should pursue.

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