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Monday, October 25

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The Mechanics
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Taxes Wed Sep 29 2010

Sitting on Their Hands While Their Hands Are in Your Pockets

The perpetual election cycle is a cause for consternation on many fronts. While news today that Cook County property tax bills will not be delivered to taxpayers till sometime near Thanksgiving isn't really all that surprising, the consequences of this stalling tactic have far greater reach and implications than our elected officials intend. Cook County Assessor candidate and current tax appeals board member Joseph Berrios can point the finger at outgoing Assessor James Houlihan all he wants, saying Houlihan's failure to assess property in a timely fashion has in turn pushed back the appeals schedule, but engaging in this futile blame game is too transparently cynical to work to anybody's advantage. Perhaps Berrios can adopt the campaign slogan: "If nobody notices, nobody gets hurt."

Except, in reality, all of us do.

Without property tax bills, homeowners obviously cannot pay their property taxes. Without the funds from these taxes arriving into municipality's coffers (coupled with the permanent vacation of due monies from Springfield) and then being applied to pay for essential services, governing bodies will have to operate from a dearth of funds to provide any services at all. To fill that hole, the cities and towns will have to look towards borrowing money just to be able to keep the lights on. And of course, borrowing will eventually cost extra money. It's not too difficult of an equation to figure out where taxing bodies will look towards to get that extra money in servicing this new debt.

It seems as if there's a systemic condition throughout Cook County that plagues it citizens to either not notice, not care, or remain too numb to machinations such as these. But it is exactly these type of small procedural missteps that make it so difficult to enact long-lasting and meaningful reform. It's these type of blatant and short-sighted maneuvers that initially make privatization of public services look attractive (as governing bodies force the hand of other bodies who effectively are unable to follow through on their essential functions), but then also make privatization something to vilify, when the same cycles repeat itself, and there's either a raid on reserve funds or nothing else to sell.

Cook County- its government, its citizenry, all of us- needs to start sweating the small stuff.


 
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