Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today released the preliminary budget for Fiscal Year 2014 which projected a $152.1 million deficit.
Since taking office, President Preckwinkle has solved for more than $1 billion in deficits. In Fiscal Year 2011, the deficit was $487 million, in 2012 it was $315.2 million and in 2013 it was $267.5 million. This year's preliminary budget is the latest sign the financial health of the County continues to improve due to the structural changes made under President Preckwinkle.
“We have reduced our deficit each year, even while rolling back the sales tax increase,” President Preckwinkle said. “As the gap continues to close, it is increasingly difficult to reduce expenses and become more efficient, however, I am confident we will be able to make the tough decisions necessary to balance the budget without raising property or sales taxes.”
The most significant driver of the County’s projected deficit in 2014 comes from $166 million in rising personnel costs, employee health benefits and other, non-personnel spending. Projected revenue losses of $60 million are primarily driven by the residual impact of the final .25% sales tax rollback and the recent reduction of the non-titled use tax. These deficits are offset by an anticipated $74 million positive net impact due to the full implementation of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
The combination of these factors leads to the lowest projected budget gap since President Preckwinkle took office.
The $74 million in anticipated reimbursements from Medicaid expansion is in addition to the projected $99 million net impact from 2013. President Preckwinkle sought and won federal approval to begin enrolling certain patients at the Cook County Health and Hospitals System in the Affordable Care Act before it goes into full effect in January 2014, impacting the County’s budget in both this fiscal year and next. The County established a goal of enrolling more than 100,000 individuals. To date, the County has initiated more than 68,000 applications – sending them to the State for approval.
Public safety is also a significant portion of the County’s budget. President Preckwinkle reaffirmed her commitment to reform the criminal justice system to make it more humane and less costly to taxpayers. A recent state law that will allow 17-year-olds to be tried as juveniles rather than adults, will lead to more individuals entering into the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) instead of the County jail. The $12 million in additional costs associated with this change make it more critical than ever to focus efforts on alternatives to detention.
The County is also projecting a year end shortfall of $18 million in 2013. In order to address this, the President has directed the budget department to work with all departments to identify and eliminate 20 percent of the vacant positions in the offices under the President. President Preckwinkle also encouraged other elected officials to replicate this effort to help offset the projected deficit.
“The President’s directive to reduce vacant positions will not only allow us to address the projected year end deficit, but it will also have a significant impact on 2014 expenditures,” said Budget Director Andrea Gibson.
President Preckwinkle announced that she will host a public hearing on the preliminary budget at 6 p.m. on July 11th in the Cook County Board room.
“I am calling on residents, the County Board, separately elected officials, civic groups, labor unions and other interested parties to give our office feedback as we craft our budget,” President Preckwinkle said.
Residents will have an opportunity to provide testimony and engage directly with the President’s office on their budget priorities. The President’s office will live-stream the public hearing so residents can use social media to ask questions. Prior to the hearing, residents can visit www.cookcountyil.gov/Budget to view the preliminary budget and access more information about how the County allocates resources. Residents can also take advantage of an interactive feature called “Tell Toni” to show the choices they would make to balance the budget. Twitter users can use the hash tag “#TellToni” to share their thoughts online during the hearing.