February 23, 2004
Final County Spending Plan Relies Less on Tax Increases and More on Reserve Funds and Efficiencies
(Chicago) - The Civic Federation today congratulated President Stroger and the Cook County Board of Commissioners for approving a FY2004 budget that is balanced without relying on either sales or lease taxes. Instead, the budget was balanced through an 82-cent increase in the Cigarette Tax, $5.5 million in departmental budget cuts, and transfers from the Treasurer’s Indemnity Fund and the Court Judgments Fund.
“We’re encouraged by what the County did not do in this budget,” stated Civic Federation President Laurence Msall. “While the Civic Federation opposed all tax increases to balance this budget, including the cigarette tax increase, we are pleased that the County avoided two much more onerous tax increases.” Previous budget proposals had included both an increase in the County’s home rule sales tax from 0.75% to 1.0% and a new 4% personal property lease transaction tax.
Last November the Federation opposed adoption of the original budget after conducting an extensive analysis. The analysis concluded that not enough had been done to reduce expenditures or increase efficiency at the County before turning to a tax increase to balance the budget. The Federation’s budget analysis recommended that the County: • Limit the growth in its appropriations to the natural rate of growth in its existing revenue sources, which would still allow the budget would still grow by 3% (more than the rate of inflation). • Eliminate some or all of the 2,000 vacancies. • Hold appropriations to FY2003 levels; cut departmental budgets for non-personnel items (such as office supplies, travel, and contracts). • Spend part of the estimated fund balance. • Implement any of the numerous recommendations from the Civic Federation or the County Operations Review Team Report; eliminate automatic step increases for Cook County employees; and jointly purchase employee health insurance with other units of local government.
“The $5.5 million in cuts is an important first step,” continued Msall. “We urge the County Board to continue in this direction, looking for more ways to make lasting cuts in the budget as they move forward.”