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Official says he'll make cuts for county budget

Friday, January 05, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore says he'll be able to cut 17 percent from his budget -- sort of -- but he's in for a fight from his employees' union.

Moore on Thursday became the first countywide elected official to say he would comply with board President Todd Stroger's request for a 17 percent cut. The actual cuts amount to 14 percent, offset by a planned boost in revenue

"There's no question that reaching this goal has been painful -- very painful," Moore said. "But I consider it important -- to do what's necessary to protect our residents from a tax increase of any sort."

Moore will use a formula similar to one proposed by Public Defender Ed Burnette when he announced cuts last week.

Moore will eliminate 16 vacant positions, layoff 14 supervisors, reduce travel and office expenses by $250,000 and require all 223 remaining employees to take 10 unpaid furlough days.

The last came as a shock to Matt Brandon, secretary/treasurer of Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents many of Moore's staff.

"We're incensed by this," Brandon said. "We were absolutely unaware of any of this."

Brandon said the county can't furlough employees without writing it into their contract, and he promised to fight the proposal during ongoing contract negotiations.

Contract negotiations are handled by the president's office, and Stroger spokesman Steve Mayberry said the office is prepared to fight for the furloughs, even though SEIU was a big political supporter of Stroger during the election.

"That's what we're asking for -- creativity (in budgeting)," Mayberry said. "The initiatives you're seeing these people come up with is far beyond what you've seen in Cook County."

Stroger has called for an across-the-board cut to close a $502 million budget gap without increasing taxes.

Moore's proposed cuts total $1.4 million out of his $10.6 million general fund budget, or a bit less than 14 percent, said Chief Deputy Clerk Darlena Burnett.

To get the other 3 percent needed, Moore plans to boost county revenue by $450,000 by selling new kinds of real estate data through the office's Web site and doubling the 50 cent-per-document fee, Burnett said.

Counting the revenue increase might further anger officials such as State's Attorney Dick Devine, who are upset about the cuts and whose offices don't generate revenue.

Devine spokesman John Gorman declined to comment, but Mayberry said he didn't believe allowing Moore to count revenue as cuts was unfair.

"I'm not going to disagree that the nature of the office does play into how they arrive at the 17 percent, but there's no doubt he did reach 17 percent," Mayberry said.

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