Suffredin- For a Better Cook County  
 

Accountability
Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine

 

   
 
   
   
 
   
     
  Office phone numbers:  
   
 
 

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.

   
 

Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

   
  Cook County is the second most populous county in the nation. It is the 19th largest government in the U.S.
   
     
     
     



Your next debt bomb

Friday, December 03, 2010
Chicago Tribune
by Chicago Tribune editorial staff

A year ago, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas set out to expose the debt burdens for every governmental unit in her county. The results will startle many voters and, we expect, spur demands across Illinois and the rest of the country to make this information as transparent elsewhere as it now is here: On Thursday, easy-to-read spreadsheets built from Pappas' research went live on her office's Web site.

Take a peek.

The point isn't that public debt, by definition, is nefarious. It's that citizens need to be pressing their mayors, school board presidents and other local officials to explain how, exactly, they plan to retire these sometimes huge burdens. Many of those officials will have to admit that they've stuck taxpayers with far more debt than their shrunken revenues can comfortably retire.

Late in 2009, Pappas got County Board approval to collect and post this debt information from local governments. Most complied by uploading their financial statements to her computer system; it's important to note that these numbers originated with the local governments themselves. The treasurer's staff then rearranged the numbers onto spreadsheets. You'll find them at cookcountytreasurer.com; click on the blue link labeled, "How much does your local government owe?" Among the revelations:

• The 489 governmental bodies that responded had about $56 billion in debts and liabilities versus $28 billion in operating budget revenues. Some of that debt load is reasonable; governments borrow money for long-range improvements much as individuals take out mortgages to buy homes. Then they retire that debt out of subsequent tax collections.

• But some governments have much higher ratios of debts to revenues. Example: Evanston lists debts of almost $368 million as of 2009, but operating revenues of $94 million. Each Evanstonian's share of those liabilities is a bracing $4,736 — and that's for municipal government alone, not schools and other local taxing bodies. The city could barely pay off its debts even if it didn't spend one dime on anything else for four years. Pappas' site has Willow Springs, the Barrington Park District, Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 and others in similarly lopsided fixes. And on and on.

• Pappas' site identifies 69 local governments that, she says, have refused instructions to provide the data. Some of those, she suspects, are trying to hide embarrassing levels of indebtedness. City of Burbank, Winnetka School District 36, village of Oak Lawn, Evanston Township — what's with you and the other governments listed as nonrespondents?

• The city of Chicago lists $25 billion in debts and liabilities (as of 2008), nearly four times revenue of $6.3 billion (for 2009). In 2008, Cook County owed $5.6 billion, and had $2.8 billion in revenue. Local government debts — City Hall, schools, parks, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, etc. — total $12,484 per Chicagoan. That's a lot of debt for taxpayers to retire.

Here's a troubling asterisk: "Some governments included their pension liabilities and some didn't," Pappas says. That means many of these debts and liabilities could be gravely understated. Sunday's Tribune reported that Chicago suburbs have underfunded their pension systems by some $5 billion.

Pappas' next mission: Within weeks she'll seek County Board approval to identify the pension debts of every government in Cook County.

The logical question for every official in these local governments: Who's going to pay off all of this debt? Federal and state governments typically seek increases in income and sales taxes. Pappas' fear is that local governments instead will try to retire their debt burdens by raising property taxes.

While Washington and Springfield tell you how much more you need to pay to retire their liabilities, your next debt bomb is ticking away at your local governments right down the street.



Recent Headlines

Unemployment rate unexpectedly falls
Friday, June 05, 2020
Crain's Chicago Business

$140M renovation to transform old Cook County Hospital into hotel, office complex nearly complete
Friday, June 05, 2020
WLS ABC 7 Eyewitness News

How badly will COVID, looting hurt CPS finances?
Thursday, June 04, 2020
Crain's Chicago Business

Cook County Jail releases could be spreading COVID-19 in community, study suggests
Thursday, June 04, 2020
Chicago Sun-Times

Daily COVID-19 cases dip under 1,000, but officials warn it could take 2 weeks to see if protests prompt uptick (LIVE UPDATES)
Thursday, June 04, 2020
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County state’s attorney’s office says it will review allegations that Chicago cops pulled woman from car by her hair and placed knee on her neck
Thursday, June 04, 2020
Chicago Tribune

Report: 1 in 6 Chicago COVID-19 Cases Can Be Tied to Cook County Jail
Thursday, June 04, 2020
WTTW News

Cook County campsites, dog parks among amenities reopening
Thursday, June 04, 2020
Daily Herald

Rapper Vic Mensa: ‘The real looting is the looting of the body of George Floyd’ and other African Americans killed by police
Thursday, June 04, 2020
Chicago Sun-Times

‘We’re Here To Pray For Peace’: Faith Organizations March In Bronzeville To Protest George Floyd Killing
Wednesday, June 03, 2020
WBEZ News

The Spin: Politicians pivot to police reform | For Lightfoot, Preckwinkle and others, George Floyd death a painful reminder of racism in their lives | Chicago begins reopening
Wednesday, June 03, 2020
Chicago Tribune

‘COVID-19 Adjustment’ may lessen Cook County property taxes in light of pandemic
Wednesday, June 03, 2020
JD Supra

Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Wednesday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area
Wednesday, June 03, 2020
Chicago Tribune

More positive results for antiviral drug remdesivir in battle against COVID-19
Wednesday, June 03, 2020
Chicago Tribune

Live Updates: Looting Causes Food Shortages; Security Firms See Spike In Demand
Wednesday, June 03, 2020
WBEZ

So many were killed by gunfire in Chicago Sunday, the medical examiner brought in extra pathologists for the autopsies
Wednesday, June 03, 2020
Chicago Tribune

Social distancing measures remain in place at county jail
Tuesday, June 02, 2020
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Protests and peace: Pritzker, Preckwinkle, Cupich call for ‘peaceful action’ to stem ‘contagion’ of racism
Tuesday, June 02, 2020
Chicago Sun-Times

With Dozens Being Shot Every Day, Anti-Violence Groups Continue Working Amid Looting And COVID-19
Tuesday, June 02, 2020
WBEZ News

Judge tells Cicero no more surprise visits at nursing home where more than a dozen died from coronavirus
Tuesday, June 02, 2020
Chicago Sun-Times

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.
^ TOP