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Stroger discovers a spare $15 million
Budget plan to seek forest district payback

Thursday, February 01, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger said late Wednesday that he has found more than $15 million that will allow the county to keep open two health clinics as well as to forgo some law enforcement cuts that he previously proposed.

Stroger said he will seek the return of $11 million from the Forest Preserve District that the Cook County Board transferred to that agency several years ago when it faced its own financial crisis.
The 17 County Board commissioners also oversee the Forest Preserve District.

"When the Forest Preserve was in need of money, the county gave them some money--and we're just asking the same of the Forest Preserve now that the situation is reversed," Stroger said in an interview.

Environmental groups that were briefed on the move Wednesday said they oppose it.

Commissioner Mike Quigley, chairman of the Forest Preserve's District's Finance Committee, said he would also fight the move. "I'm going to vote against his budget if he does this," said Quigley, who had supported Stroger's budget cuts.

The resolution Stroger plans to introduce at next week's County Board meeting is co-sponsored by 11 commissioners.

Stroger also will introduce a resolution to transfer $4.25 million from the recent sale of the former Domestic Violence Courthouse, at 1340 S. Michigan Ave., from escrow to the general fund.

In addition to keeping open a health clinic in south suburban Phoenix and at 35th Street and Michigan Avenue on Chicago's South Side, the money would also be used to restore $2.3 million in funding for Access to Care, a private health program focused on the suburbs.

Another $3.5 million would be given to the health bureau for use at the discretion of its interim chief, Dr. Robert Simon. In public safety, $4.5 million would go to keep the sheriff's Department for Women's Justice Services. The balance of the money would be allocated for other public-safety spending yet to be determined.

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