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Dart calls budget cuts 'incredibly dangerous'

Sunday, February 04, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman Staff writer

The call for a county tax increase grew louder Friday as Sheriff Tom Dart told county leaders the proposed budget cuts for his department were "dangerous."
Dart stood firm in his opinion, stated before, that board President Todd Stroger's 2007 budget plan would cut courtroom deputies and sheriff's police too far.
"If these cuts are put into place, the bottom line is that the sheriff's office will not be able to guarantee the safety of judges, attorneys and the public," Dart said. "This is incredibly dangerous what we are talking about doing here. It just cannot happen."
As in previous budget hearings, Stroger did not attend and commissioners agreed the cuts were too much. Unlike most of the commissioners, Jerry Butler (D-Chicago) said what he was going to do about it.
"I am going to propose that we increase the tax," Butler said. "I am going to ask the sheriff and the state's attorney and all these officials -- to stand with me on it."
Dart repeated his support for a tax increase, if it is targeted toward public safety.
Butler said he has not yet decided what kind of tax increase to propose and doesn't know if he has the votes to support it. Commissioner Deborah Sims has also voiced support for a tax increase.
"If we get a million here, a million there, it'll add up to real money," Butler said. "They said nothing is sacrosanct (with cuts). Well, nothing is sacrosanct with me either."
Dart said he'd like the board to consider another $5 million in new revenue proposals Stroger's team hasn't included in the budget. Dart said money from increased fees for jail inmates, towing and filing fees for civil lawsuits could be used to prevent some layoffs.
Stroger, who proposed major service cuts to balance his $3 billion budget without increasing taxes, said earlier this week he will be able to restore some proposed cuts by tapping money from county land deals and from the county's sister agency, the forest preserve district. Those restored programs include women's services in the county jail.
Dart suggested even more money might be available from the forest preserve district by cutting its police force.
"If we eliminated the forest preserve police force right now, (the sheriff's office) could take over with what we have today," Dart said. "So much of that land abuts unincorporated Cook County, so we're patrolling there anyway."

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