Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today launched a new interactive website designed to show how Cook County residents’ tax dollars are being managed and to engage residents in the difficult budget choices we are facing.
The 2012 Cook County Budget website takes a comprehensive look at the preliminary budget and breaks down the $315 million shortfall for the public. It shows how the current budget situation has gotten to where it is today by detailing the past 15 years of county finances. For the first time, the County is collecting and publishing its budget-to-actual spending on a quarterly basis as a way to track progress and stay accountable about meeting budget goals throughout the year. The website has an interactive function that allows users to see how reducing expenditures or increasing revenues would affect the current $315 million budget gap.
The new site also allows for direct feedback to President Preckwinkle and her administration from residents across the County which will be aggregated and posted on a weekly basis. Known as “Tell Toni,” the information submitted in this feature will be presented at the upcoming public hearing on the preliminary budget.
“The main goal of this website is to assist the public in gaining a meaningful understanding of the $3.1 billion county budget and the role of the President, Board of Commissioners and the County’s elected officials in the budget process,” said President Preckwinkle. “Cook County residents deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent and they should be given a chance to weigh in on the important budget decisions being made in the coming weeks.
The website was launched after President Preckwinkle released a preliminary budget, the first in Cook County government. Citing the need for a more effective budget process, President Preckwinkle issued an Executive Order on June 29th mandating a preliminary budget be issued by July 31st of each year. The Executive Order also calls for a public hearing which will be held August 25, 2011, in order to more fully engage the public in the budget process. The President will submit her Executive Budget recommendation no later than October 31, 2011.
The steps that President Preckwinkle’s administration has already taken on health care benefits and electricity savings have reduced the potential deficit by millions. The continued efforts throughout the budget process are expected to yield even further savings, as well as through initiatives outlined in the City-County Collaboration report.