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County won't charge unincorporated areas for policing yet

After much criticism, the Cook County Board President is backing off a controversial push to tax unincorporated residents for police services. Instead, Toni Preckwinkle announced Friday she's creating a task force to examine other options. 

"Our effort is to figure out how we're going to deal on a case by case basis with the unincorporated parts of this county and to come up with a plan that we can incorporate into next year's budget," Preckwinkle said.

Solutions include the creation of special service areas, contracting for services with adjacent municipalities or incorporation.

Two percent of Cook County's residents live in unincorporated areas. But charging them for police services could net up to $11 million dollars.

While that's not much when sized against the $315 million dollar shortfall the county faces heading into 2012, the Civic Federation's Laurence Msall said this task force may be the starting point for recovering even more money.

Msall is one of 13 members on the new task force and cites a study his organization released last year on modernizing Cook County.

"The magnitude we've been able to identify in our 2010 study was about $70 million dollars of county expenses can be drawn to providing the broad municipal services," Msall said.

Beyond police protection, he said that includes the inspectors the county provides to maintain zoning, liquor control and animal control.

Msall said there are myriad ways to solve the county's problem of unincorporated areas receiving free services by default, and he's not ruling out a push for new legislation.

Current law does not allow the county to force unincorporated areas to incorporate.

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