Originally published December 7, 2010 — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle released her transition report today. Following her victory in the general election, Preckwinkle asked a diverse group of civic, business, and community leaders to come together and focus on creating a plan that would guide Cook County forward both in the short and long term.
Staff from the Civic Consulting Alliance augmented the transition efforts, providing pro bono consultants, legal resources, and financial experts from across the public and private sector. This marked one of the very first times such a wide-ranging private and public collaboration was brought to bear on the difficult issues facing County government.
This Transition report released today outlines a comprehensive plan focusing on four key goals: fiscal responsibility, innovative leadership, transparency and accountability and improved services. The report details the high-impact initiatives that President Preckwinkle will work with other County elected officials to implement during her first 100 days and her first term in office.
As emphasized in her inaugural address Monday, the transition report recognizes that collaboration is critical and that major cost saving initiatives must be supported by the entire team of elected officials who administer County operations and its $3.2 billion budget.
Through interviews with County representatives and an extensive independent analysis, the transition team estimated that Cook County faces a FY 2011 budget gap of approximately $487 million. This gap impacts the entire County and poses a challenge to all elected officials. To balance the budget, elected officials must find 21 percent savings in the remaining three-quarters of the fiscal year that would remain after the budget is passed in February. The County’s fiscal year begins Dec. 1 of each year. This budget figure equals about 16 percent in savings over the entire fiscal year.
Last month, Preckwinkle hosted a meeting with the 11 other County-wide elected officials to begin discussions regarding the budget process. In it, she reinforced the importance of achieving these fiscal goals as a team.
“The importance of collaboration in this budget process cannot be emphasized enough. The best answer is not to do this independent of one another. No one can complete this task alone. In short order, we need to work together — to identify and implement efficiencies, set long-term planning goals and cut waste — and present a balanced budget that lays the groundwork for the reduction of the sales tax,” said Preckwinkle.
The initiatives offer recommendations on steps the Board President can take to make the County more fiscally responsible starting with her own office, but each of them are also contingent on cooperation from all elected officials. By working together, elected officials can — and will —— present Cook County citizens with a balanced budget that does not reduce the quality of service.