December 21, 2016
The following are the five most read posts presented by the Civic Federation blog in 2016. These posts examine issues ranging from local government consolidation to pension funding reform.
This post highlights an initiative long supported by the Civic Federation to merge the offices of the Cook County Clerk and the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. On June 29, 2016 the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution that put a countywide referendum on the November 2016 ballot asking if the office of the Cook County Recorder of Deeds should be eliminated and all duties and responsibilities be transferred to the office of the Cook County Clerk.
Update: As detailed in this subsequent post, Cook County voters approved the ballot measure on November 8, 2016, and the merger of the offices should be complete by the end of 2020.
Chicago and Cook County Impose Tax on Electronic Cigarettes
February 25, 2016
This post examines newly implemented City of Chicago and Cook County taxes on electronic cigarettes. The taxes went into effect on January 1, 2016 for Chicago and on May 1, 2016 for Cook County. As mentioned in the post, the City of Chicago was the first major U.S. city to tax electronic cigarettes. The City of Chicago expected the tax to generate $1.0 million in fiscal year 2016, and the County expected to generate $1.5 million. The post also includes information on historical changes to sales taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.
This post explains the significance of the equalization factor in Illinois. All counties, including Cook, are required to undergo equalization to ensure that the total equalized assessed value of real property is 33⅓% of fair market value. Equalization is necessary for the fair implementation of certain state statutes. As noted in the post, the final equalization factor for the Cook County 2015 property assessment year (taxes payable in 2016) is 2.6685, which does not mean that taxes will go up or down.
This post describes a report submitted to Governor Rauner’s office in early 2016 outlining Illinois’ record high number of local governments along with recommendations for their consolidation or elimination. According to the report, such a large number of governments can lead to duplication of services and redundant layers of government, which has led to a relatively high property tax rate for Illinois. Task Force recommendations include enacting a four-year moratorium on creating new local governments and allowing citizens to consolidate or dissolve local governments by referendum.
This post describes recent changes to the way in which the City of Chicago’s police and fire pensions are funded. Until tax year 2015, statutorily required employer contributions to the funds were based upon a multiple of what employees contributed two years prior, which had been insufficient for the actual financial needs of the funds for many years. Senate Bill 777 put the funds on a 40-year plan to 90% funding. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the legislation after it was sent for his consideration on March 31, 2016, but the General Assembly voted to override the veto and the legislation was enacted.
Update: As noted in the Civic Federation’s analysis of the City of Chicago’s proposed FY2017 budget, the City has made great financial strides in recent years by identifying dedicated revenue sources for its pension funds. However, it remains to be seen if recent reforms will be enough in the long-term, and the City must continue to evaluate the needs of its funds on a regular basis.