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Cook county panel votes to borrow $332 million for projects, equipmen

Thursday, March 25, 2010
Chicago Tribune
by John Byrne

A panel of Cook County commissioners today voted to borrow $332 million despite arguments from opponents that spending money on improvement projects and equipment is an extravagance the county can't afford right now.

The County Board Finance Committee voted 12-4 to borrow $224 million for the projects and another $108 million for equipment. Four Republicans voted against the plan.
 
The proposal will next head to the full County Board for consideration for what's expected to be routine approval.
 
Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) told his colleagues to look beyond the bottom line to the fact that the money will go toward necessary projects that he said will directly benefit taxpayers.
 
Suffredin pointed to proposed investments in the county jail and health care system as sensible expenditures that will save the county money in the long run by helping end federal oversight of the jail and making hospital billing practices more efficient.
 
New technology for the county assessor's office will help get property tax bills processed more quickly so municipalities that depend on that money don't have to borrow to pay their bills, Suffredin said.
 
But Commissioner Timothy Schneider (R-Streamwood) noted that some of the projects in this year's capital plan – such as a new security camera system at the Daley Center – had been turned down by the board last year.
 
"After looking at some of the projects in the fiscal year 2010 capital bill, it looks to me like many of them are castoffs from the 2009 bill, and crow-barred back into the 2010 bond issue," Schneider said. "Why are we putting projects back into the capital bill that were previously rejected by this board?"
 
Finance Committee Chairman John Daley (D-Chicago) countered that department heads presented all the project plans during budget hearings last year.
 
"Some people have said we never took this up. It was at budget time that people would have had the opportunity – if they chose – to ask various elected officials about their capital improvement programs," Daley said. "It is in your budget. No one is hiding it."


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