Preckwinkle takes new steps to strengthen budget process, collaboration

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced today the signing of an Executive Order that will strengthen the County’s Budget process and increase collaboration between the President’s office and other offices and departments throughout the County government. The Executive Order mandates the President’s office to issue a preliminary budget on June 30 of each year, a month earlier than a previous executive order required. Last year was the first year that a County Chief Executive released a preliminary budget prior to the Executive Budget Recommendation, a step aimed to increase transparency and better engage stakeholders throughout the budget process. President Preckwinkle is implementing an earlier budget timeline to allow sufficient time to develop structural budget solutions in advance of the budget recommendation. To incentivize creative and thoughtful budget solutions, President Preckwinkle has directed the Budget Department to launch the Cook County Re-organization and Investment (ROI) Program, an innovative program designed to support proposals that will have a lasting impact on the County. “Immediately following the passage of the budget for the current fiscal year, we began work on how to craft a budget recommendation for FY 2013 that continues to strengthen the delivery of public services, makes County operations more efficient and more effective, and saves taxpayer dollars,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “This new initiative is another step towards transforming County government by providing incentives and resources to agencies and departments with the goal of lowering spending and eliminating inefficiencies.” Under the ROI Program, the County will invest in a department or office’s project if there are expected savings or revenue for the 2013 budget year and beyond. Departments will be able to use savings from these initiatives to limit the number of budget reductions required for 2013. In addition, a percentage of the funds will go into a revolving investment fund to help defray start-up costs of future initiatives. “Government at all levels has to do more with less, and the Re-organization and Investment Program will provide the tools to maximize our limited resources,” said Commissioner John Daley, Chairman of the Finance Committee. “I look forward to working with President Preckwinkle and my colleagues on the County Board to implement these projects in the 2013 Budget.” Cook County’s Department of Budget and Management Services will solicit budget proposals from every office and department, help them build a business case around their proposal, and work to implement the proposal if it is included in the FY2013 budget. Budget proposals can include new ideas that save money, generate revenue or could be considered management improvements that improve transparency or accountability. “This will be a hands-on, collaborative process with all the stakeholders who want to participate,” said Cook County Budget Director Andrea Gibson. “Our performance management initiative will play a key role in tracking process as a program is implemented, but departments and offices will have real ownership of their proposals and we expect these to yield significant savings for taxpayers.” The Department of Budget and Management Services is asking for proposals by the end of March. They will conduct workshops in the coming weeks to further explain the ROI Program and assist offices in creating business cases. The type of projects the Budget Department is expecting to receive could include projects such as the following: investment in inspection equipment that will lead to greater efficiency and revenue, maximizing the use of existing equipment and vehicles to reduce operating costs, conducting a process re-design study to identify opportunities to streamline operations, or maximizing grant opportunities by investing in grant writers. In 2011, the President’s office partnered with the Cook County Sheriff on an up to $1 million grant to provide services for individuals on electronic monitoring under the Sheriff’s custody. The ROI Program will seek to institutionalize this concept throughout all of County government.