Suffredin- An Advocate for All of Us  
 

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

‘Do you know who I am?’ Investigators say Cook County commissioner pressed cops to scrap ally’s $250 parking ticket
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Chicago Tribune

IG: Cook County needs revamp on sexual harassment outside of work following allegations against Preckwinkle ex-chief of staff
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Higher Assessments Hit North Suburban Commercial Property Owners
Thursday, July 11, 2019
Evanston Patch

How did an inmate get a loaded gun into Cook County Jail?
Thursday, July 11, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Check exemptions, file an appeal: What you can do to fight your Cook County property tax bill
Thursday, July 11, 2019
WGN Chicago

’A lack of mental health services has plagued Chicago for decades’: Holy Cross Hospital expanding to fill that void on the Southwest Side
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Chicago Tribune

How To Appeal Your Cook County Property Tax Assessment
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
CBS Chicago

County Commission Hopes to Increase 2020 Census Participation
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
WTTW News

Cook County Property Tax Bills: Where Does Your Money Go?
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
CBS Chicago

Seniors Receive Inflated Property Tax Bills By Mistake
Tuesday, July 09, 2019
WBBM Radio

Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts’ property tax appeal under investigation after Tribune finds assessment problem
Tuesday, July 09, 2019
Chicago Tribune

North suburban landlords slapped with big assessment hikes
Monday, July 08, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

Miscalculation leads to increased tax bills in Wheeling Township
Friday, July 05, 2019
Daily Herald

Judge rules state legislators violated Illinois Constitution by voting to freeze their pay
Wednesday, July 03, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Search: Chicago Property Tax Increases and Decreases by Ward
Wednesday, July 03, 2019
WTTW News

Millions in Cook County property tax refunds going to homeowners whose bills show no balance due
Monday, July 01, 2019
ABC 7 Chicago

Why 7,600 property owners in suburban Cook County are getting tax refunds
Monday, July 01, 2019
Daily Herald

$25 million in property tax refunds going to 25,000 owners
Monday, July 01, 2019
Special to suffredin.org

Illinois hiring hundreds to reduce Medicaid backlogs
Monday, July 01, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

County health officials say IG report was ‘simply wrong’ even as commissioners plan hearings on system’s finances
Thursday, June 27, 2019
Chicago Tribune

all news items

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