The Cook County Board today voted overwhelmingly to approve a new budget with some fee increases and a slew of employee layoffs.
The spending plan calls for approximately $50 million in new and increased taxes and fees to help the county close a $315 million shortfall.
Under the spending plan, the county's tax on wholesale alcohol will increase, with the tax on a 24-pack of beer increasing by 6 cents, and the tax on a 750 ml bottle of vodka by no more than 50 cents, according to Preckwinkle's office.
The cigarette tax will be expanded to include other tobacco products, such as cigars and loose tobacco, with the rate increases phased in over the next two years. And the county will institute a new $4.75 daily parking fee at county courthouses, with an exemption made for jurors, early voters, witnesses and law enforcement officers on official duty.
"It's not a perfect budget...but there's a bigger picture here," said Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman, R-Orland Park. "We negotiated...we crafted a budget that has some reforms. Compromises have been addressed."
The tax at county-owned garages will be expanded, with daily parking fees that are more than $2 but lower than $5 charged a 50-cent county tax; weekly parking fees that are more than $10 but less than $25, charged a $2.50 tax; and monthly parking fees that are more than $40 but less than $100 charged a $10 tax.
Commissioners also overcame their initial hesitation and approved doubling the cost of vehicle stickers for residents living in unincorporated Cook County to $80 for sedans and $100 for most SUVs.
The county's tax levied on the purchase of cars, boats and other titled property will increase, and will be expanded to include private purchases of those big-ticket items.
The new taxes and fee offsets Preckwinkle's commitment to eliminate a county sales-tax increase. The county share of the sales tax will drop another quarter percentage point on Jan. 1.
The $2.94 billion budget also includes nearly 800 layoffs after Preckwinkle could not reach a deal with unions to take unpaid days off next year.
The 16-1 vote marks another win for Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has now been in office nearly a year. The lone 'no' vote came from Commissioner William Beavers, a Chicago Democrat who has sparred with Preckwinkle over the past year because of her decision to roll back the sales tax.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun