Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today presented her Executive Recommendation for the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget to the Cook County Board of Commissioners. No new taxes, fines or fees for second straight year
Continuing her efforts to promote fiscal responsibility and streamlined governance, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today presented her Executive Recommendation for the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget to the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Preckwinkle’s proposed budget contains no new taxes, fines or fees for the second consecutive year, continues the transformation of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS), takes a strategic approach to real estate management, holds the line on positions (which remain 8% below the start of the administration), and works to improve public safety.
Requiring tough choices and compromises, the $3.9 billion budget is the product of months of collaboration between commissioners, elected officials, County departments, union officials and the public. Like previous budgets presented by Preckwinkle, the FY 2015 Executive Budget Recommendation focuses on long-term fiscal strength, structural changes at all levels of government to increase efficiency and limiting expenditure growth. Notably at the end of Preckwinkle’s first term, the County will have less in borrowing than she inherited when she assumed the presidency.
“We had many tough decisions to make, but I am pleased to present a budget with no new taxes, fines or fees,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “In the past four years, we have solved for more than $1.4 billion in combined budget deficits and returned $1.5 billion to taxpayers by rolling back the sales tax. We are spending sensibly, creating a culture of responsibility and working toward a sustainable financial future for the County.”
The President’s budget closes a $168.9 million shortfall that was projected in June:
- A total of $48.8 million in cost reductions are included in the FY 15 budget
- Revenue exceeding preliminary budget expectations as well as reimbursements from the State of Illinois contributed $36.6 million
- Enhancements to the management and enforcement of revenues and payments to vendors contributed an additional $22.5 million
- The $61.1 remainder of the County’s preliminary shortfall was solved through cost reductions and an increase in federal reimbursements for CountyCare members
The President’s office worked closely with the health system to continue to reduce local taxpayer funding of the system. CCHHS will continue to expand CountyCare to new populations, adapt to a changing marketplace and improve patient services. In 2015, the County is providing $164 million for CCHHS operations, down 58% from $389 million when Preckwinkle took office.
“With the president’s continued support, we have been able to maintain our mission as a safety net, while improving its financial stability in a competitive marketplace,” said Dr. John Jay Shannon, CEO of CCHHS. “We will expand CountyCare, improve the patient experience, which along with safe, high quality care will allow us to position CCHHS as a provider of choice.”
Preckwinkle reiterated her commitment to working with all of the criminal justice stakeholders in the County to lower the jail population by reducing the reliance on pretrial detention for non-violent offenders.
“Maintaining the jail is an incredibly expensive enterprise. Every year, taxpayers pay over $381 million to operate our jail system. We know that the best way to bring down the cost of the jail is to bring down the jail population.” Preckwinkle stated. “A smaller detained population will allow for a smaller jail campus. This year, in partnership with the Sheriff’s Office, we will be demolishing two administrative buildings and consolidating the jail campus. As we see declines in the jail population, it is our responsibility to make sure there is the same downward trend in staffing levels and overtime rates.”
As part of a commitment to streamline operations, Preckwinkle is consolidating the efforts of the Departments of Facilities, Real Estate and Capital Planning under a new Bureau of Asset Management. This new cabinet-level office will allow the County to create building-by-building budgets to produce savings, improve energy use, and leverage available assets to spur economic development.
Challenged by Preckwinkle to reform and improve the grant application and management process, Cook County has been awarded $850 million in grants since she took office. The Fiscal Year 2015 recommended grants budget stands at $221 million representing a 36 percent increase from Fiscal Year 2014. Excluding economic stimulus funding, Preckwinkle has doubled County grant dollars since 2010.
Understanding that pension reform is critical to protecting the retirement security of workers and the interests of taxpayers, Preckwinkle plans on continuing her efforts to work with the state legislature on an equitable and financially sound pension reform package. Absent changes, the pension fund will become insolvent in 20-25 years. The Pension Fund has accumulated a total of $6.5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, which she believes cannot be passed to future generations.
A major focus moving forward will be County-led efforts to generate regional economic development. The Chicago Metro Region was recently designated as one of the nation’s 12 Manufacturing Communities and the County is now pursuing a pool of $1.3 billion in future federal funding. In September, Preckwinkle announced the Metro Chicago Exports program which will bring together Cook County, Chicago and the six collar counties in an effort to combine efforts and resources to improve local exporting efforts.
“We are heading in the right direction but must do more,” Preckwinkle added. “I am committed to pursuing criminal justice reforms that cut costs and free up resources, pension legislation to ensure the County’s long-term financial stability and regional economic development that creates jobs and opportunities for our residents.”
Cook County Commissioner John P. Daley, Chairman of the Finance Committee, commended President Preckwinkle’s continued work to present responsible and comprehensive budget solutions.
“President Preckwinkle has pushed for fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency in each budget she has presented to the Cook County Board,” Daley said. “This budget is another example of the President’s commitment to creating long-term financial stability, not running away from tough decisions and pursuing her vision for a better Cook County.”
Maintaining her commitment to transparency and accountability, President Preckwinkle has posted all budget information to the Cook County Budget website, allowing the public to review budget documents and engage with the President’s Office directly. There will also be public hearings held on the 2015 budget over the coming weeks.
To view the Budget website, please go to cookcountyil.gov/budget/