November 3, 2015
The Civic Federation cannot support Cook County’s proposed FY2016 budget of $4.5 billion because it is based on a one percentage point increase in the County’s sales tax approved on July 15, 2015 that will make the City of Chicago an outlier compared to other major urban centers with a composite rate of 10.25%. While the Federation supports the County’s efforts to increase pension funding, the magnitude of the sales tax increase is not reasonable given the other available revenue and expenditure reduction options, as well as legal uncertainties regarding the increased pension fund contribution. Additionally, the introduction and approval of the sales tax increase outside of the budget process meant that Commissioners and the public lost an opportunity to engage in a thorough public discussion of options and alternatives.
The Civic Federation is disappointed not to be able to support this budget. The FY2016 budget includes a number of initiatives to close a preliminary deficit of $198.8 million, including a reduction to the tax allocation to the Health System, expenditure reductions such as changes to employee health benefits and some layoffs, as well as some targeted revenue enhancements. Only a very small part of the sales tax increase approved in July 2015 will be used to reduce the preliminary deficit. The County has also made excellent progress on criminal justice reform, leading to a significant reduction in the number of pretrial detainees charged with non-violent offenses who are held at the County Jail.
Cook County’s Fiscal Year 2016 begins on December 1, 2015 and ends on November 30, 2016.