President, Cook County Commissioners pass balanced FY 2011 budget, roll back sales tax
Working through the day and into the night, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved the FY2011 budget with an unanimous vote. The budget represents the first steps of a restructuring of County finances and a long-term plan that will address the structural budget deficit and lay the groundwork for that rollback back of the county sales tax increase. The final budget includes an amendment to fully repeal the remaining half-cent of the sales tax increase. Under the ordinances approved today, the county sales tax will be reduced by 0.25% in FY 2012 and 0.25% in FY 2013. These proposals were approved by a vote of 12-5. “We made a commitment on the campaign trail that this was what we were going to do, and I wanted to be sure that all the people of Cook County understood that we were going to meet our campaign promises. If we are serious about repealing the sales tax, we need to have that factored into our budget process moving forward,” said Preckwinkle. The original budget recommendation called for roughly 1300 layoffs across the County. As a result of intensive negotiations between representatives from the President’s Office, Board of Commissioners and union leadership, an agreement has been reached to save 550 jobs. Previously scheduled layoffs will begin on March 11, the pay period immediately following the passage of the budget. Most union leaders have already agreed that their members will take 10 unpaid days during this fiscal year in lieu of layoffs. This will also be true for all non-essential County employees. Non-essential County employees are those who are not necessary to staff 24/7 operations, such as those working within the hospitals or jail. “We were faced with a $487 million deficit which meant that there were no easy options. We worked to identify a fiscally responsible alternative to layoffs. I believe that, in this economic climate, the responsible action is to have everyone, including myself, sacrifice a little in order to save jobs,” said Preckwinkle. Upon taking office in December, Preckwinkle honored her campaign promise to take a 10 percent pay cut. She will also take 10 unpaid days on top of that. “As I said in my budget address, you cannot manage without measuring first. For that reason, unprecedented performance management metrics were an integral part of the agreement with the unions,” said Preckwinkle. “We must now turn our attention to developing and demanding the performance management metrics that will ensure fiscal responsibility and accountability throughout the rest of the fiscal year.” A critical component of this is performance based management and budgeting which aims to add transparency, accountability and fiscally responsible practices to the budget process. It involves a process that all county elected officials, agencies, bureaus and departments must complete each year. The process requires that each county agency and department prepare a quarterly report in which it defines its mission and establishes measurable goals for achieving desirable results for those who benefit from its services, foremost the taxpayers who fund those services. These metrics will be used to measure and ensure progress and accountability across Cook County government. Also reflected in the final budget is an initiative spearheaded by the President’s Office to receive the roughly $40 million in Medicaid reimbursement that was owed to the County from the State. “We said at the beginning, this budget was going to require collaboration. This budget was the result a lot of hard-working people and a lot of long nights. I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish is such a short window of time. But I also want to make sure that this situation is not repeated. The second quarter of the fiscal year is only a few days away and we are just now passing this year’s budget. I’ve repeatedly said this was a bad practice. That is why we must, and we will, immediately begin work on next year’s budget,” said Preckwinkle.