Breaking with his father's avoidance of property tax increases and his own campaign promise not to impose them, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger made it clear over the weekend that he thinks a property tax hike is one way to balance the 2008 county budget.
Stroger made the comment in an interview that aired on "Fox Chicago Sunday." In response to a question by hosts Dane Placko and Jack Conaty about how he planned to balance the budget, Stroger replied, "For years, we haven't taken any of the natural growth [in property values]. We should go to the next level that we can."
Commissioner Forrest Claypool, a frequent Stroger critic, said asking taxpayers to bear a property tax increase now, on the heels of several mini-scandals involving county officials, shows Stroger is "tone-deaf" and "arrogant."
"Todd Stroger needs to get his priorities straight, and he's shown that his priority is protecting the bloated patronage system and the county system full of six-figure salaries for his friends and relatives and cronies," Claypool said Monday.
"Now he's saying, 'I want to raise property taxes on people.' . . . The president is certainly tone-deaf to be talking about raising property taxes," Claypool said.
Stroger acknowledged problems with some county officials in the Fox interview, responding to a question about "incompetence" among some of the county hospital hires made under his father: "That may not be too strong a word. ... In some instances you could say that."
Last year's Cook County tax levy was $720.5 million, marking the eighth consecutive year at that level.
Cook County residents, particularly in areas undergoing rapid increases in property values, already are bracing for a hit if the state Legislature fails to reinstate the 7 percent tax cap put in place three years ago. That cap is set to expire this year.
Marv Rubin, a resident of Norwood Park on the city's Northwest Side, said he met with about 100 neighbors, many of them seniors, on Monday morning and encouraged them to contact their state legislators in the waning days of the session to urge them to support an extension of the cap.
Without the cap, some longtime residents will be forced out of their homes, Rubin said.
As for Stroger's suggestion that county property taxes might go up, Rubin said, "He's doing everything backward as far as we're concerned. The bottom line is he can find jobs for all his friends and he's telling us he needs money. It's ridiculous."
He seems to be getting hammered lately. Check out this editorial from the Sun-Times.
Hmmm, I think that the Todd Stroger blog needs an update.