Preckwinkle warns: Cut Cook County budget — or I will
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
by Lisa Donovan
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle issued
a warning Tuesday to Sheriff Tom Dart and State’s Attorney Anita
Alvarez — and anyone else balking at the looming budget cuts: help her
swing the budget ax, or she’ll propose the cuts herself.
“We’re obliged to submit a balanced budget, we
hope for their help and cooperation and we’ll submit a balanced budget
whether or not we get their help and cooperation,” Preckwinkle said
during a Tuesday morning news conference.
Currently, she’s working on a 2011 budget proposal
for the county’s roughly $3 billion operation and has called for 16
percent spending cuts to wipe out a $487 million deficit. She’s asked
the separately elected leaders, including Dart and Alvarez, to submit
budgets for their individual offices to reflect the cutbacks.
Assessor Joe Berrios, members of the county’s tax
appeals board, Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore along with health and
hospitals CEO William Foley agreed to the cuts.
But Dart and Alvarez, along with county Circuit
Court Clerk Dorothy Brown — which have traditionally made up roughly
one-third of the budget — have politely pushed back, saying their
operations already are lean.
Alvarez’s staff has said the office would have to
shed dozens of prosecutors, triggering a slowdown in criminal and civil
cases moving through the court system. Dart has said he has to comply
with a series of court orders — including hiring of correctional
officers — making it difficult to meet the cuts.
Preckwinkle begged to differ Tuesday.
“We believe they can” make the cuts, Preckwinkle
said. “We’ve asked for shared sacrifice. I think the words early on were
that no one would be absolved and no one would be alone in making these
Asked whether she’ll go ahead and propose the cuts
if other elected officials don’t, Preckwinkle said firmly that the cuts
will happen no matter what.
Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly said the state’s
attorney’s office has submitted budgets and will continue to work with
Dart spokesman Steve Patterson said in e-mail:
“There’s more than a month until something must be passed and we
continue our efforts.”
Preckwinkle will introduce her budget proposal Feb. 1, and county commissioners will have to vote on the plan by Feb. 28.
Preckwinkle said she’s also making cuts in her own
office — a move made more difficult by her predecessor. That’s because
last year’s budget allotted former County Board President Todd Stroger
$2.3 million to cover salaries in offices under his authority — but he
ended up exceeding that by $600,000, she said. That’s 26 percent higher
than his allocation.
What will be cut in her office?
“Lots of staff positions,” Preckwinkle said.
Her comments came during an unrelated news
conference to introduce a former comptroller for the City of Chicago as
the county’s new chief financial officer.
Tariq G. Malhance, 66, who worked in city
government for 25 years and most recently worked in business, was once
part of the Lakefront Independent Democratic Organization — one of Mayor
Daley’s political armies which worked to get out the vote along the
lakefront. He will be paid a $176,000 salary.