In conjunction with the release of the President’s FY2021 Executive Budget Recommendation, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle recently unveiled a new, interactive budget website. The website was created in an effort to promote transparency throughout the budgetary recommendation which calls for no increased taxes or cuts in services.
The new budget site provides numerous interactive charts and graphs of budget data so that residents can easily access and understand the financial details surrounding the FY2021 Budget. These displays offer the ability to filter, drill down and sort the budget data in order to provide detailed insight on County expenditures, revenues, grants and infrastructure spending.
The 2021 budget website is a major improvement over FY2020. Visitors can now go directly from the visualizations to download tables of underlying data on the Cook County Open Data Portal. The new site also includes data going back to FY2018 to allow visitors to compare current revenues and expenditures with historical numbers.
“As we continue to modernize County operations, consistently increasing transparency is a cornerstone of our efforts,” said President Preckwinkle. “This budget recommendation and the new interactive website demonstrate our continued commitment to transparency, accountability and analysis,” said Budget Director Annette Guzman.
Cook County Chief Data Officer Dessa Gypalo notes, “we built this groundbreaking site using a module in our existing open data system, which means that over time it will become easier to update and maintain the data for the benefit of our residents.”
Despite the enormous budget pressures caused by the pandemic, last week President Preckwinkle unveiled a $6.9 billion Executive Budget Recommendation for Fiscal Year 2021 equitably addressing the fallout of the pandemic without increasing taxes or cutting critical services. The budget recommendation continues to be driven by several policy goals to enhance Cook County’s services to ensure vital health care access for vulnerable residents, foster a fair justice system aimed at violence prevention and reducing recidivism, provide economic development to under-resourced communities, and invest in infrastructure while promoting long-term fiscal stability.
Preckwinkle said in her speech it was a mighty effort to close a $222.2 million gap in the general fund without the need for new revenue. A combination of financially responsible efforts, the use of rainy day savings, expenditure holdbacks, federal relief, higher than previously forecasted revenue, and vacancy reductions helped close a substantial general fund budget hole. With the closing of a $187 million budget gap at the hospital system, Cook County closed a $400 million deficit without the need for new taxes.
Preckwinkle also called attention to the fact that Cook County has provided supplemental pension payments of almost $1.6 billion dollars above the required contribution since 2016, significantly reducing the unfunded pension liability with another supplemental pension payment of over $300 million this year included in the budget.
Preckwinkle highlighted a number of important items and investments in the budget that will be moving forward in the coming year:
- The Bureau of Economic Development will be investing an additional $20 million in aid to our business communities and residents in greatest need, with $5 million to expand support for small businesses, increase coaching and training for M/WBEs, build an integrated small business ecosystem, and catalyze innovation in manufacturing. $2 million of the additional investment will go towards workforce training to meet the needs of high demand occupations and upskilling displaced workers. $13 million is going to expand housing assistance and support for legal aid and foreclosure mediation while providing residents with food, utility and direct cash assistance.
- Cook County will invest an additional $20 million for programs related to justice reform through the Justice Advisory Council (JAC). $5 million will go to various anti-recidivism, violence prevention, restorative justice and youth development programming. $5 million will go to housing for those being released from the jail population and on electronic monitoring facing housing insecurity and $10 million to additional investments to increase access to justice programs and services.
- $5.8 million in capital investments for the continued development of an integrated property tax system that will make doing business with the County a lot easier for taxpayers.
- With approvals from the Cook County and Metra Boards, we are targeting January for the fair transit pilot program launch to assist residents in the southern portion of our County with more frequent, affordable and accessible transportation options and ensure that residents on the South Side of Chicago and in the south suburbs have better access to transit.
For more information on the new interactive budget website please visit https://budget.cookcountyil.gov/