Peter Gariepy Issues and Platform

Itemized Taxpayer Receipts

Transparency is hollow without accountability, and it is the responsibility of the Cook County Treasurer to provide taxpayers with both.

As the primary point of contact between most taxpayers and their property tax information, the Cook County Treasurer is should provide taxpayers with greater insight into what they get in return for their tax dollars.

Let’s start with my 2015 property tax bill from the Cook County Treasurer’s Office. In its current form, the below statement says little about how property tax dollars impact one’s own neighborhood, home and family.

Plain and simple, the below tax statement is completely inadequate and Cook County taxpayers deserve more from their Treasurer. Given the abundance of publicly available information and readily accessible technology, there is no excuse for the lack of useful information that Cook County taxpayers currently receive from their Treasurer.

$146.37 of my property taxes went to the Chicago Library Fund, so how much went to the branches of the library near my home? $1,868.56 went to the City of Chicago, but how much went to the Chicago Police Department, specifically the police district in which I live? Questions like that should be answered by the Cook County Treasurer, but for that to happen there must be a vision for what taxpayers rightfully deserve and the leadership to continuously deliver greater value to Cook County’s taxpayers.

As recently as 2014, President Obama’s White House produced a Taxpayer Receipt to provide individuals with a detailed and useful breakdown of how their income taxes were allocated by the federal government. I remain inspired by President Obama’s initiative and the promise of useful information driving informed discourse and enhanced civic engagement between the public and those elected to represent their best interest.

As a CPA, who has closely examined the information provided by to taxpayers by the Cook County Treasurer and the related data that is scattered across multiple city and county supported websites, I am running to overhaul the information readily available to taxpayers, who should be able to quickly and clearly see how much of their tax bill is going to their local services, such as:

  • Police district
  • Public schools
  • Health and wellness services
  • Public parks
  • Transportation services and improvements
  • Elected official’s discretionary funds
  • Tax Increment Financing district (TIF) or a Special Service Area (SSA)

By the way, there are currently 146 TIFs in Cook County. If you live in one, do you know how your tax dollars are being used, and if you agree with the use?

I do not have all of the answers on what information and format is valuable to all of Cook County’s cities, neighborhoods and townships.  However, if elected I will make sure the Treasurer’s office is open, responsive and seeks input from each and every community. I will provide more value than ever before by providing in-person meetings and briefings.

Impact Investment

Creating an Impact Investment Fund that focuses on attracting private capital to areas of Cook County with high rates of underemployment and underinvestment will follow the lead of Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers and his localized investment vehicle known as Fund77.

I will introduce a similar initiative that will responsibly invest in our County’s less advantaged areas.

I will include sufficient oversight and independence to ensure that taxpayer money is well spent and that the impact of the investments is made in those areas with the greatest potential for increasing access to living wage work, attracting investment in infrastructure and generating a return for taxpayers.

Additionally, a financially independent volunteer advisory committee will be convened to ensure investment decisions benefit from the joint perspective of organized labor, women owned businesses, minority owned businesses, local chambers of commerce and institutional investors with a focus on social and environmental impact.

Protecting Renters

Both renters and property owners should see themselves as taxpayers and both deserve a proactive level of service from the Cook County Treasurer’s office. A duty of the Treasurer’s office is auctioning the debt of unpaid property taxes, a practice that adversely impacts any neighbors, but particularly those that are already under-resourced.

For those cases where a renter is present and a delinquent landlord has put that property at risk of being auctioned – I will present the Cook County Board with a proposal to allow that renter to have the first right of refusal to purchase the landlord’s debt. My proposal will include a low interest loan program to support the renter’s purchase of the property tax debt and increase the odds that the renter remains a valuable presence in their neighborhood.

This is just one more example of how I will reinvent the Cook County Treasurer’s office and reinforce that it’s function is to serve all taxpayers – including those paying indirectly, like renters. I will work tirelessly to find innovative ways to add value for every taxpayer.

Advisory Committee for the Entire Office

I would create a volunteer advisory committee made up of community leaders, experts and clean government groups. The committee will independently and regularly share feedback on how the Cook County Treasurer’s Office can be of greater value to taxpayers of every income level.

I don’t believe that being elected official is a career, but rather a temporary privilege bestowed by the voters one term at a time. With that time, that term, an elected official should seek to generate the greatest amount of good, for the greatest number of people, as quickly as possible.

Peter Gariepy Issues and Platform August 14, 2017