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County Budget-Cutting Deadline Comes And Goes

Saturday, December 30, 2006
WBBM Newsradio 78

CHICAGO (STNG)† -- Noon came and went Friday with a bit of a collective yawn from county officials -- none of whom complied with his order.

Stroger -- faced with a $500 million shortfall and his campaign pledge not to raise taxes -- has said he has no back-up plan and will have his staff make cuts for those unable to find ways to cut 17 percent.

Friday, a spokeswoman said Stroger will issue a statement on the budget on Tuesday.

Instead of making cuts and presenting him with a thinner budget, most county officials instead delivered him a letter -- explaining the impact of such cuts -- and set up appointments to meet with him later.

All continue to say 17 percent cuts are unreasonable and will mean fewer jail guards, nurses, clerks, public defenders and state's attorneys. And some say an earlier call for 10 percent cuts is even unrealistic.

"We've outlined our objections to across-the-board cuts," said John Gorman, spokesman for State's Attorney Richard Devine. "We're willing to make cuts, but not to the extent he's asked for."

Cook County Assessor James Houlihan will meet with Stroger in January to discuss "the seriousness of the issue" before making cuts, spokesman Lucio Guerrero said.

Sally Daly, spokeswoman for Sheriff Tom Dart, said "we're very close to meeting the [10 percent] target. We've made meaningful cuts."

But, she said, cutting 17 percent won't allow them to properly operate the county jail or provide other public safety.

Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown also sent Stroger a letter outlining concerns, but has no budget.

The $3 billion budget is Stroger's first and poses deeper problems than any budget before it.

The lack of a budget is also putting substantial pressure on the county board -- as of today it has just 67 days to comply with a state law requiring a budget to be passed by Feb. 28.

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