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County leaders on lookout for cash crunch

Thursday, April 06, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

Cook County officials on Wednesday denied reports they are out of cash, but nervous commissioners said they want monthly updates about the $3 billion government's revenue.
Chief financial officer Tom Glaser told commissioners the county has money in its working cash fund, which is used to pay county bills. Although he denied a report the county has approached local banks about loans, he would not rule out such a measure for the future.
"We are not now actively looking for lines of credit," Glaser said. "It's too early to make a definitive statement about (the rest of the year)."
To balance the 2006 budget in February, commissioners increased their estimated revenue from cigarette taxes so they could avoid cutting services or increasing taxes.
Finance committee chairman John Daley (D-Chicago) and others said it was a bad idea at the time, but nothing else had the votes to pass.
Daley on Wednesday pushed through a measure that requires county finance officials to give the board monthly updates on whether revenue is meeting budget projections.
"A number of commissioners said they were concerned about this," Daley said.
Although Glaser and Comptroller Walter Knorr insisted there was no immediate cash crunch, county commissioners — both those who supported the 2006 budget and those who voted against it — seemed ready to fear the worse.
"Before this becomes acute, we should be aware if there's a larger problem," said Commissioner Mike Quigley (D-Chicago).
Commissioner Jerry Butler (D-Chicago) said any money crunch should be blamed on board members who opposed tax cuts.
"When we start building our houses on cigarettes that haven't been smoked, we're going to run into this problem," Butler said. "So you're either going to pay it now or you're going to pay it later. And later is coming sooner."

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