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Cook’s finance chair losing patience with county managers
John Daley calls for plan to close gaping budget hole

Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Crain's Chicago Business

The chairman of the Finance Committee of the Cook County Board says he running out of patience with some of the county’s fiscal managers and wants to see a detailed plan on how they intend to dig their way out of a rapidly-widening hole in the county’s 2006 budget.
Responding to a story Tuesday that the county is as much as $44 million in the red half way through its budget year, Commissioner John Daley says he will request an action plan at the board’s meeting next week. The request could take the form of a formal resolution, depending on what happens, Mr. Daley said.
The managers of the county’s health bureau, where the deficit is concentrated, “have a lot of answering to do,” according to Mr. Daley.
He noted that bureau finance chief Alvin Holley a month ago promised that a then–$17 million deficit in bureau finances was temporary and would disappear by July 1. Instead, through May, the deficit apparently has ballooned to between $33 million and $44 million, according to both county Chief Financial Officer Thomas Glaser and County Comptroller Walter Knorr.
The health bureau, which operates the county’s network of charity hospitals and clinics, says the deficit is only $33 million, Mr. Daley said. But “I believe the 44,” which comes from Messrs. Glaser and Knorr.
Mr. Daley, the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, noted that the county ran a $60 million deficit last year, mostly because of revenue shortfalls in the health bureau. “I’m getting to the point where I question their ability to deliver,” he said.
While the bureau is part of county government, it traditionally has been largely autonomous from other county operations.
Mr. Daley said he wants “a plan of action: how they plan to reduce” the budget deficit by July 1. The plan likely will have to focus mostly on spending cuts, since the county drew down its financial reserves last year and other commissioners are unwilling to increase taxes.
News of the county’s declining finances adds a new wrinkle to the political war over the future of County President John Stroger, who suffered a severe stroke in March and may give up his office soon.

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