(Chicago, IL) — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today unveiled her 2012 budget and proposed eliminating 1,000 county employees, raising $52 million in an assortment of targeted tax and fee increases, and implementing other measures to plug a $315 million hole in the county budget that begins on December 1, 2011.
“I am confident that this is a fair budget that rests on a framework of long term financial management and strategic structural changes across county government,” said Preckwinkle.
“This framework will allow us to make long-term investments in the County —keeping our commitment to rolling back the 2008 sales tax increase and investing in a 3-year plan to rebuild our suburban infrastructure.”
The proposed $2.9 billion budget is 4% less than the current spending plan bequeathed to Preckwinkle by ex-Board President Todd Stroger, and it reduces the Stroger one-penny sales tax by additional .25% on January 1, 2012.
Preckwinkle’s budget features structural changes that yield $219 million in savings, including more than 1,000 layoffs throughout County offices, the majority of which take effect December 1st, a step which would save nearly $40 million. The county would also shrink the Cook County Jail population by 1,000 inmates over the next year, shaving $5 million off of Sheriff Tom Dart’s budget.
Financial management changes would yield $25 million in savings, one-time budget fixes would cough up $19 million, and higher taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and car sales would generate $52 million.
Cook County Hospital will get $252 million from Preckwinkle’s spending plan, down from $276 million during the current year.
“President Preckwinkle should be commended for working closely with [the Hospital] to significantly streamline operations without negatively impacting patient care,” said Dr. Ramanathan Raju, the hospital’s chief.
Finance Committee Chairman John Daley also praised Preckwinkle’s plan.
“President Preckwinkle has made fiscal responsibility a mandate for County government from her first day in office, and this budget is evidence of someone who is willing to make tough choices to foster compromise, reorganize County government and do what’s right for the taxpayers of Cook County now and years down the road,” Daley said.
The “years down the road” cited by Daley are, however, going to ravage the County’s finances, according to Preckwinkle’s own projections.
Next year, the former Chicago 4th Ward Alderman predicts the County will face a $202 million budget gap in Fiscal Year 2013 which inflates to a gaping $667 million hole by Fiscal Year 2016.
The $19 million of “one-time budget fixes”, upon which Preckwinkle relied to close next year’s budget deficit, suggests that she stretched and scraped to balance the books. The budgets that follow in the next few years will be far more difficult to square than this year’s.
This budget will soon be seen as “the good ‘ole days”.