Preckwinkle presents new CFO, girds for budget battle
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
by Ted Cox
In presenting her new chief financial officer, Cook County Board
President Toni Preckwinkle delivered an implicit ultimatum to her fellow
countywide elected officials: Cut budgets 21 percent across the board
this week, or she’ll do it for them.
“We’re required to submit a balanced budget,” she said. “We
hope for their help and cooperation. And we’ll submit a balanced budget
whether or not we get their help and cooperation.”
Preckwinkle set a Thursday deadline for other elected officials
to make the cuts she’s asked to make up an estimated $487 million
deficit in the $3 billion county budget. Most countywide elected
officials have already agreed to cut their budgets 16 percent annually,
21 percent with the shortened fiscal year as the 2011 budget is passed
at the end of the first quarter.
Yet Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez have not publicly committed to making the cuts.
Both have pleaded the fixed costs of law enforcement, with
Dart citing the court-ordered requirement to actually add officers at
the Cook County Jail as part of a lawsuit settlement.
“We believe they can (make cuts), and we have to make them
in order to make the budget balance,” Preckwinkle said. “We asked for
shared sacrifice. ... No one will be alone, and no one will be
Preckwinkle has set a Thursday deadline for departmental
budgets. Hearings begin next week as Preckwinkle prepares to submit a
proposed budget at a county board meeting Feb. 1. By law, it has to be
passed by the end of the first quarter next month.
“The county’s 2011 budget will take center stage for the
next six weeks,” Preckwinkle said in announcing the appointment of
former Chicago comptroller Tariq Malhance as her chief financial
officer. “The public is counting on us to deliver a responsible budget
in the short term and a new sustainable model for the way we utilize
their tax dollars over the long term. We’re working diligently toward
those goals,” she added, and Malhance is key to that.
“Our first order of business is to submit a balanced budget
and insure that it is approved by the end of February,” said the
66-year-old Malhance, who worked on Chicago’s $6 billion budget as city
comptroller from 2002 to 2005.
Malhance served 25 years in public finances with Chicago,
where he first worked with Preckwinkle as a Hyde Park alderman. Since
retiring in 2005, he has been senior vice president of private equity of
Unicorn Investment Bank and president of UIB Capital.
In spite of the current budget deficit, Malhance echoed
Preckwinkle’s pledge to “roll back the county’s sales tax,” to the
previous 0.75 percent, after Preckwinkle’s predecessor, Todd Stroger,
raised it a full percentage point, an increase cut in half last year.
Malhance’s salary was set at $176,000, which is what
previous CFO Jaye Williams received before getting a raise of more than
$50,000. “We’re going to bring that salary back in line,” said
Preckwinkle’s Chief of Staff Kurt Summers Jr.
Preckwinkle said that was typical of the Stroger
administration, which padded a $2.3 million budget for personnel out to
$2.9 million. Because of that, she said, she was cutting personnel in
the president’s office by $1 million to get to the required level of