Cook County

Cook County (Tribune illustration / March 25, 2012)

After seeing gains in 2013, Orland Park's sales tax revenues slumped in early 2014. Total sales tax revenues in January, nearly $1.84 million, were down 10.1 percent from the same month last year, according to data from the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Home rule and municipal sales tax revenues dropped 12.9 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively.

Village officials and business owners blame the polar vortex and generally frigid January temperatures.

"My unscientific thoughts are that it had a lot to do with the weather," said village spokesman Joe La Margo, noting that other communities saw similar declines. Tinley Park received 13.5 percent less sales tax revenue in January 2014 than January 2013, while Schaumburg saw a 12.4 percent drop in home rule sales taxes and municipal sales taxes fell 8.9 percent, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue. Other towns, however, did relatively better, such as Naperville, where sales tax revenues declined 2 percent relative to the same month the year before.

Keloryn Putnam, executive director of the Orland Park Area Chamber of Commerce, said a number of the chamber's member business owners bemoaned the lengthy winter freeze.

"Nobody left their houses. They weren't going to restaurants or going out shopping," she said. "Especially coming off a couple years of mild winters, there's a big psychological effect."

Giovanna O'Malley, co-owner of Amano Vivere Cafe, agreed, saying few people were willing to brave the cold this winter, not even for the cafe's hot drinks and soups. Amano Vivere Cafe opened in June 2013, and she said she initially wondered if business was slow because they were the first and only retail tenants in the Ninety7Fifty On the Park apartment complex, facing the 143rd Street Metra station.

"But other business owners we talked to said it was one of the worst periods they'd seen in 14 or 15 years," she said.

Sales taxes are an important source of funding in Orland Park. In the village's 2014 budget, they were expected to provide 44 percent of general fund revenues.

In the last few years, Orland Park's sales tax revenues have grown steadily to near pre-recession levels. In 2013, municipal sales tax revenues were up 4.6 percent and home rule sales tax collections were up 3.4 percent over 2012, La Margo said. The municipal sales tax is a one percent tax on vehicles and general retail merchandise except certain food and drug purchases, according to village documents. Orland Park's home rule sales tax is a 0.75 percent tax that does not apply to vehicles.

Once spring arrived, Putman said, business owners seemed more optimistic.

"Things have definitely picked up since it's warmed up," O'Malley said.

The most recent sales tax figures cover revenues distributed to municipalities in May but earned in February. Home rule sales taxes were down 4.7 percent compared to February 2013 but municipal sales taxes, up 2.9 percent, were "bouncing back," La Margo said.

"Obviously, we don't want to see any declines in sales tax revenue for any month, but a few months of decline doesn't affect the budget or our cash flow. If we saw the trend continuing for a few months, we would have to begin planning for the effects of the decline," he said.

lzumbach@tribune.com | Twitter @laurenzumbach