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Preckwinkle, Dart reach budget compromise

Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Daily Herald
by Ted Cox

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Sheriff Tom Dart announced a compromise today in making cuts to his office to balance the proposed 2011 budget.

Dart agreed to cut about 12 percent from his budget last year of $457 million, reducing it to $404 million and estimating it would cost him about 100 layoffs.

Preckwinkle has called on county elected officials to cut their budgets 16 percent across the board to make up an estimated $487 million budget shortfall, but she announced last week she was allowing State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and the public defender’s office to make 10 percent reductions, while holding Dart to the original 16 percent. Dart had proposed a 9 percent cut.

The two had harsh words for each other last month, with Dart offering to patrol the county on his bicycle, and Preckwinkle questioning the high number of sheriff’s police on family and medical leave — sometimes 20 percent of the force on a given day.

Yet today they met before Preckwinkle was to submit her budget proposal to the County Board and announced the compromise.

“We were both committed to working this out,” Preckwinkle said. “We’re both committed to working together going forward.”

“This has been a difficult process for everyone involved,” Dart acknowledged, adding, “The staffs on both sides have done a terrific job.”

Dart, who has committed to adding correctional officers at Cook County Jail as part of a court settlement, said the layoffs would be “spread around to different departments.”

Preckwinkle and Dart and announced the Sheriff’s Office would also handle more judicial sales, resulting largely from home foreclosures, which is standard operating procedure in most other counties, but was farmed out to private firms in Cook. The county will now pocket the proceeds, helping ease the budget crunch.

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