Cook County Board Approves FY2011 Budget

March 02, 2011

On Saturday February 26th, the Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the FY2011 Annual Appropriations Ordinance. In the Civic Federation’s analysis of the Executive Budget Recommendation, the Federation supported Board President Preckwinkle’s budget plan and commended the administration for its efforts to reform governmental operations. The amended budget as approved by the Board made some changes from the President’s Recommendation, including the following:

Sales Tax Rollback

The Board passed an amendment to fully repeal the 1.0% sales tax increase adopted in 2008. The amendment reduces the County’s sales tax to 1.0% beginning in 2012 and to 0.75% in 2013. After the 2008 increase, Chicago had the highest sales tax rate in the nation at 10.25% and despite the 2010 partial rollback was still among the highest of any major metropolitan area. President Preckwinkle’s phased implementation of the rollback was supported by the Civic Federation because it was paired with a variety of operational and fiscal reforms.

County Positions and Furlough Days

After negotiations between the President’s Office, Board of Commissioners and union leadership, an agreement was made to save approximately 550 positions from the original recommendation calling for 1,300 layoffs.[1] All non-essential County employees will be required to take ten furlough days before November 30, 2011. In lieu of five of the furlough days, Cook County may exercise its right to shut down on selected holidays. According to the County, the shutdown and/or furlough days will generate $3.5 million in savings per day and will be used to fund certain positions scheduled for layoff.[2] The President’s Office attributes the successful negotiations to unprecedented performance management metrics.[3] The Civic Federation’s Cook County Modernization Report recommended integrating performance measurement into the budget process.

Commissioner Budgets

The Board passed Amendment 26 to provide equal resources of $350,000 to all Cook County Commissioners. An additional floor amendment (FA-18) was approved to increase the amount by $10,000 per Commissioner, paid for by unused County Clerk Election funds and fixed charges.

Other Amendments

An amendment was proposed to consolidate and realign information technology resources under the Chief Information Officer, an initiative recommended by the Civic Federation in the Cook County Modernization Report. Although a number of Commissioners expressed support for such an initiative, the amendment did not pass due to concerns with legal challenges as communicated by the State’s Attorney’s Office.

Floor Amendment 17 was approved to increase revenue estimates for the Cook County Health and Hospitals System in FY2011 to account for the outstanding Medicaid payments that are currently owed by the state. Due to the increase of $39.0 million in revenue estimates for the Health System, Cook County will be authorized to accordingly reduce its subsidy up to that amount.

For a full list of proposed amendments, see the Amendments to the Tentative Appropriation Ordinance.

[1] Office of the President, Cook County, “Commissioners pass balanced FY2011 budget, roll back sales tax,” news release, February 26, 2011. Due to discrepancies in the Cook County FY2011 Executive Recommendation, it was difficult to accurately determine the change in staffing levels between FY2010 and FY2011. Two figures were given for FY2010 total FTEs: in Q-4 Summary of Positions by Fund (p. 100), the total FTE count is 23,891.8 and in Q-4A Summary of Positions by Control Officer (p. 103), the total FTE count is 24,834.1.
[3] Office of the President, Cook County, “Commissioners pass balanced FY2011 budget, roll back sales tax,” news release, February 26, 2011.