Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle introduced what she characterized as a “challenging” $4 billion budget recommendation yesterday, calling for $39 million in cuts to the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, reducing 287 County jobs (including 51 layoffs), and a slight hike in amusement taxes for things like bowling, cable tv, and sports leagues.
“After a generation of kicking the can down the road, Preckwinkle is moving to put the County on firm financial footing for the future,” a press release from Preckwinkle’s office said. Paired with the sales tax hike the Board of Commissioners approved earlier this year, she says the $100 million in expenditure reductions and reforms, “will provide the financial support needed to begin addressing the Cook County Pension Fund’s $6.5 billion shortfall.”
87% of the County’s general fund goes to personnel-related expenses, Preckwinkle said in her remarks before commissioners while justifying layoffs, half come from her office, the other from Sheriff Tom Dart’s.
The Sheriff’s Department’s Day Reporting Center and Graffiti Unit will both be cut.
Contractual services through the Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program will be cut, but County employees in the Program will be retained.
Three Cook County Jail divisions will be demolished.
Three previously exempt amusement tax categories will be extended: participatory amusement, such as sporting leagues, the margin charged by ticket re-sellers, and in-home amusement, such as cable. All three are already collected by the City of Chicago.
Extending the tobacco tax to include e-cigarettes and e-vapor products. Preckwinkle says a $0.20 per milliliter tax will bring in $1.5 million.
A new Integrated Tax Processing System will be launched to “modernize the administration of Cook County home rule taxes.”
And as Mayor Emanuel defended his own FY 2016 budget to the press after yesterday’s City Council meeting, Preckwinkle was dousing cold water on it in a meeting with Crain’s editorial board. She told them the County’s outdated computer software is incapable of “neatly” dividing city and county properties and their tax rates. County Treasurer Maria Pappas backed her up, saying, “I’m 95 percent sure they can’t do it.”