Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced today the launch of several County-wide, strategic reform initiatives in an effort to continue to transform County government and tackle the structural deficit in the years to come.
On the heels of the approval of modest revenue enhancements by the County Board, Preckwinkle was joined by a bi-partisan group of Commissioners: Elizabeth Gorman (R-17th), Gregg Goslin (R-14th), Tim Schneider (R-15th), Peter Silvestri (R-9th), Jerry Butler (D-3rd), Finance Chairman John Daley (D-11th), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-7th), and Robert Steele (D-2nd) to announce the initiatives that are expected to increase accountability throughout the County and yield long-term savings. The initiatives being undertaken include centralizing the management of all banking and financial relationships throughout the County, consolidating IT functions, overhauling the County’s time management policy, and creating a shared-services center to ensure best practices and centralized management and oversight.
“We have to make tough choices in order to transform County government and improve services for our residents,” President Preckwinkle said. “I commend the Commissioners for the difficult decisions they made yesterday. Today, we stand together to introduce reforms that will help us more effectively deliver better services to County residents while lowering the cost of County government for taxpayers.”
The groundwork for these reforms was established by President Preckwinkle’s S.T.A.R. Performance Management program, which helped identify areas in County government where modernizing or consolidating operations will improve services to County residents and lower costs for tax payers. The initiatives will impact all County offices, aligning them with the mandate set by President Preckwinkle’s FY 2012 Budget proposal to be both comprehensive and forward-thinking.
The County’s mounting structural deficit makes the need for reform more urgent. The deficit projection included in the President’s Budget proposal shows an emerging structural deficit of $210 million in FY 2013 and grows to over $660 million by FY 2016.
“It is of critical importance that we continue to show financial leadership now so that we can rein in costs, increase efficiencies and begin to erase our structural deficit,” Preckwinkle said.
The public will be updated on progress toward these reform initiatives on a future reform tracker website (reform.cookcountyil.gov).
County-wide reform initiatives:
Centralize management of all banking and financial relationships
County funds are currently held and invested by a number of disparate County agencies. Little oversight on where and by whom public funds are currently held and invested.
The County will put accountability measures in place by amending the “Taxpayers’ Interest Assurance Ordinance” to reduce potential waste and fraud, and ensure the financial security of the County’s banking assets.
Prior to the investment of public funds the Chief Financial Officer and the Board of Commissioners must approve financial institutions in which public funds are invested. The CFO will also develop Countywide investment policies and strategies to safeguard public funds and apply regulatory best practices that will be applied to the selection of financial institutions.
The CFO will ensure that sounds investment strategies are applied to the investment of public funds, so that County funds are secure and achieving the appropriate return on investment.
The County will add transparency to the investment process. This information will be available at the County’s Open Data Portal (data.cookcountyil.gov) so that taxpayers have a central place to see the County’s funds. The public information will be updated so that it remains current.
Consolidate disparate, inefficient IT functions
The lack of technology coordination makes cooperation across County agencies difficult. While the Bureau of Technology is responsible for implementing computing and communications technology and infrastructure, it accounts for less than 20% of the County’s total IT personnel.
The President will introduce a budget amendment that moves responsibility for technology infrastructure and utility services in all County agencies and the Health System to a temporary transitional department in the Bureau of Technology (IT Shared Services—Dept. 585).
After the positions and functions have been reviewed, they will be reclassified and placed in the appropriated departments in the Bureau of Technology.
Overhaul Time Management Policy
The President’s Office will work to reform the County’s time management policy to root out waste and abuse by adopting a uniform policy throughout the County.
In order to ensure fairness in compensation, the President will seek to eliminate instances where County paid lunch breaks and vacation time counts towards higher rates of overtime pay for employees.
As collective bargaining agreements are being renegotiated, the President will revisit overtime policies to ensure that they are comparable to other governments.
With the help of pro-bono consulting partners, the President will draft and implement new policies early 1st Quarter of FY 2012.
Create a Shared-Services Center
Lack of shared services is one of the largest inefficiencies facing the County.
The new Shared-Services Center will formalize the work that the Chief Administrative Officer has been leading for the last six months through increased collaboration between departments, agencies, and the offices of the separately elected officials.
A new Shared-Services Center will be created to implement and administer the work of the committee established previously by the Chief Administrative Officer.
The Shared-Services Center will first focus on consolidating high-volume and specialty printing; mail distribution services; record storage, retention, and disposal; telephone operators; salvage and recycling; and contracts and procurement, such as interpreter services.
Progress will be reported on a quarterly basis on a future Reform Tracker site.