County to borrow against sales taxes

Cook County commissioners voted 9-8 yesterday to give chief financial officer Donna Dunnings the authority to borrow $150 million against increased sales tax revenues that go into effect next month.

The vote will allow the county to spend anticipated revenues generated by an increase in the sales tax from .75 percent to 1.75 percent. The increase, which goes into effect July 1, will be collected by October.

Dunnings made the case for approving the measure in dire terms. "Operations of the county would cease July 1 if we don't do this," she said.

Not everyone was convinced however.

Commissioners Tony Peraica (R-Westchester) and Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) questioned Dunning's characterization.

"I don't believe we are short," said Suffredin. "There's been no documentation of that. There is obviously enough money. We have to become at some point a more efficient manager."

Peraica said the county should reduce its costs instead.

"What we do in our homes and our businesses when we have less money is reduce our costs," Peraica said. "We don't know how to do that here. This is the wrong thing to do at the wrong time."

Suffredin said he also was concerned that a cash management program, intended to avoid future budget shortfalls, was promised with the approval of the budget in February but has not yet been implemented.

"This is a slap in the face to the people who have to pay that sales tax July 1," Suffredin said.

Also voting against the increase were Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago), Elizabeth Ann Doody Gorman (R-Orland Hills), Gregg Goslin (R-Glenview), Mike Quigley (D-Chicago), Peter Silvestri (R-Chicago) and Timothy Schneider (R-Bartlett).