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For rent: Preckwinkle’s deluxe county digs downtown

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks fund raiser Saturday sponsored by ElgTownship Democrats Hickory Stick restaurant Elgin. | Dave

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks at a fund raiser, Saturday, sponsored by Elgin Township Democrats at Hickory Stick restaurant in Elgin. | Dave Shields ~ For Suntimes Media.

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Updated: November 6, 2012 6:26AM

To help erase a $267.5 million budget hole, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is considering giving up some deluxe digs on high next year.

She’s considering leasing the top two floors of the George W. Dunne Building at 69 W. Washington, which houses county administrative offices in the heart of the Loop. The 34th floor is vacant and the 35th floor has just five employees in the president’s offices, according to Preckwinkle staffers.

Offering 360-degree views of the Loop and beyond and a combined 40,800-square feet, the floors may be attractive to a commercial tenant, Preckwinkle’s staff says. Early estimates suggest the county could lease the floors for at least $1 million annually — a drop in the bucket when considering the county is a $3 billion operation.

But over a decade, the $10 million could help the cash-strapped county government.

“The County estimates a lease agreement would bring in more than $1 million in revenue per year over a 10-year lease,” Preckwinkle said in a prepared statement issued Thursday after Crain’s Chicago Business first reported the proposal. “This proposal is emblematic of the kind of long-term, strategic decisions the public can expect to see in the 2013 budget.”

To date, Preckwinkle has kept budget discussions close to the vest; she’ll unveil the 2013 spending plan Oct. 18. But much to the relief of real estate owners countywide, she is steering clear of boosting property taxes — which could serve as a political hot potato for Preckwinkle, who says she is running for a second term but has been mentioned as a gubernatorial candidate in 2014.

“We’re not raising property taxes,” she told reporters after Tuesday’s county board meeting.

Preckwinkle is keeping the budget plan close to the vest, but her budget director, Andrea Gibson, suggested at a City Club luncheon in September that small fee and tax hikes were on the table.

Asked this week for specifics, Preckwinkle said she wasn’t prepared to talk about it.

Pressed about whether a cigarette tax hike is being bandied about, she would only say: “We’re looking at a bunch of different things.”

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