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Cook County Board passes compromise version of Stroger budget

Friday, February 23, 2007
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

After a 14-hour day of negotiations, Cook County commissioners approved a budget that fell somewhere between President Todd Stroger’s original proposal and that of 12 commissioners.
Ten Stroger allies — one more than needed — passed their amended budget that back-tracked somewhat from what Stroger had originally proposed.
The new budget:
•Closes 13 of 26 health care clinics instead of 15 of 26;
•Cuts 35 sheriff’s police instead of 100;
•Cuts 60 court deputies instead of 240;
•Restores the jail’s Women’s Justice Services program, a program that keeps non-violent female offenders out of jail and in drug rehab;
•Cuts approximately 40 prosecutors instead of 60.
In all, the budget cut 1,720 job positions from last year’s budget. Of that number, 1,281 are currently filled; the rest are vacant.
Stroger was able to restore some of the cut services after the board performed a mixture of raising fees and transferring money from the forest preserve district.
Stroger’s proposal was vehemently opposed by just seven commissioners who remained from the original dozen who had proposed an alternative budget.
Those commissioners — including Tony Peraica, Forrest Claypool and Tim Schneider — said Stroger’s compromise budget did not go far enough.
Their version restored all 100 police, all 26 clinics, and dental clinics, among other things.
They claimed their proposal differed from Stroger’s original proposal by restoring about 900 front-line jobs that had been eliminated — such as nurses, cops and doctors — by cutting about 400 administrative or supervisory positions.
“It chops at the top and protects people at the bottom who provide real services,” Claypool said.
Commissioner Mike Quigley, who late Thursday night was in line to vote with Stroger’s revamped proposal, said 400 was not an accurate estimate as to how many supervisory positions were cut in the 12 commissioners’ proposal. He claimed that number was closer to 256.
Quigley said Claypool’s proposal used questionable financial procedures to provide those extra bodies and was not financially sound, noting that it counted on a high rate of employee turnover during the year.
He said the proposal “creates a $90 million hole. … That’s really sticking us out there.”
Commissioner Larry Suffredin disputed that, saying it was sound financial practice to count on turnover.
Stroger was humble in what many perceived to be a victory for his administration. “I think it’s good that our amendment passed. … But it’s also not a great day when we have to lay off people.”
Neither Stroger’s proposal nor the 12 commissioners’ proposal raises taxes.


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