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Layoffs beginning with no final budget

Friday, March 02, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman Staff Writer

Cook County officials are laying people off even though the budget office still is trying to figure just how many jobs were lost and where.
"We passed the budget, but the budget process is continuing," Cook County Board President Todd Stroger said Thursday after meeting with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who demanded some of the cuts to health service be restored.
Stroger's office released figures earlier this week showing the county had cut 500 more jobs than originally believed in last week's budget debate.
But these new budget figures are still being fleshed out and are already under attack for accuracy. The county board approved the budget about 2:30 a.m. Feb. 23 after a full day and night of last-minute negotiated changes.
"We've already begun the process of laying those people off," sheriff's spokeswoman Sally Daly said. "It's our understanding that the budget is finalized. -- But there is some concern there, because we've never experienced anything like this."
Stroger's office now says the final budget cut 2,193 jobs countywide. On the day the budget was approved, officials said that number was more like 1,700 jobs.
"The numbers provided at that time were part of what was then a running total," Stroger spokesman Steve Mayberry said. "We are in the process of reconciling all the amendments versus the proposed budget and will ultimately produce numbers in the final appropriation book."
That final book is not expected for several weeks, Mayberry said. The budget department lost some of its workers in the layoffs and is struggling to keep up.
Of the 2,193 jobs cut, all but about 500 of them are now filled and will result in workers getting laid off.
The deepest cuts were at the health department, where 1,155 jobs were cut and layoffs will begin soon, officials said. An exact list of which positions are to be cut is not yet available.
"It's a death sentence," Jackson said of the cuts, calling on Stroger to hold a summit meeting with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Jackson threatened the county with civil- rights lawsuits if some services weren't restored, but he refused to give a timetable or say what exactly he wants the county to do.
The county nurses union also protested the health cuts Thursday. Members laid down on the floor before Stroger's office and held up mock tombstones.
Layoffs by other county officials are already under way, even though those officials said the job cuts they think are required by the budget don't match Stroger's numbers.
Stroger's office says State's Attorney Dick Devine lost 102 jobs, but Devine said he lost 144.
"The numbers Stroger's office gave out are inaccurate," state's attorney spokesman John Gorman said. "We had 44 vacant slots eliminated and 100 people were fired, laid off, canned, whatever term you want to use."
The 100 layoffs included 43 prosecutors, 10 investigators and 47 administrative staff. Gorman said the state's attorney's office lost a greater percentage of workers than any other.
Sheriff Tom Dart's office similarly said it couldn't figure out why Stroger's office said only 128 jobs were cut. Daly said their analysis showed them losing about 290 jobs.
Those layoffs included 66 deputies, 35 sheriff's police, 61 custodians, and 44 employees at the jail's day reporting unit, Daly said. The eight-person inspector general's office was eliminated.
Budget officials said one explanation for the difference is figures is that Stroger's office is calculating positions based on "full-time equivalents." So two full-time jail guards hired for only the second half of the year would only count as one job.


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