County rejects CC Hills’ repayment plan
By Casey Toner email@example.com June 4, 2012 2:22PM
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:29AM
Cook County has rejected Country Club Hills’ five-year plan to repay the $6.6 million the county accidentally overpaid it in 2010.
Not only that, but the county wants all of its money back within 10 days.
“If we do not hear from you ... we will consider all appropriate legal steps that must be taken to recover the outstanding balance,” wrote Assistant State’s Attorney Tatia Gibbons in a May 29 letter to the city.
Country Club Hills borrowed the funds via a short-term loan with Chase Bank in 2010 because Cook County was late in distributing the city’s share of property tax revenue.
The county repaid the bank loan in October that year with the tax money due to the city but erred in also giving Country Club Hills $7.2 million in property tax revenue — failing to subtract the $6.6 million used to pay off the bank loan.
County Treasurer Maria Pappas, who declined to comment for this story, has acknowledged that the county clerk’s office made a mistake.
Mayor Dwight Welch called the process “frustrating” and said he believed a deal between the city and the county would be worked out in court.
“It’s their mistake, and they’ll have to correct it and work with us,” Welch said. “We’re going to cooperate as well and cooperate with good sensible ground rules.”
Ald. Vincent Lockett (2nd) doubted the city’s ability to repay the money soon. Aldermen had indicated previously that the money had been spent on city operations.
“It’s impossible unless we play the Mega Millions lottery and we win,” Lockett said. “That’s the only way we can pay them back.”
City attorney John Murphy pitched the five-year payment plan in a May 22 letter in which he painted a dismal picture of the city’s finances. Country Club Hills will have a $9.6 million budget deficit by January 2013, even without repaying the county, the letter says.
With the extra money from the county’s overpayment, the city council reduced the property tax levy and returned $2 million to residents through a property tax rebate, according to the letter.
To help restore the city’s finances, Murphy said aldermen were planning on a $28 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, about $7 million less than the prior budget and necessitating layoffs in all departments.