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COMMISSIONERS SAY NO NEW TAXES REQUIRED TO BALANCE BUDGET; PROPOSE "TOP 10 LIST" OF GOVERNMENT WASTE TO CUT

Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Special to suffredin.org

Cook County government should be reformed and streamlined, four county commissioners said Tuesday, in calling for the board to reject President John Stroger's call for higher taxes to balance the 2005 budget.

Cook County Commissioners Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago), Anthony Peraica (R-Riverside), Michael Quigley (D-Chicago) and Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) proposed a "Top 10 List" of government waste to cut--reforms that would save $239 million, far more than necessary to close the $146 million deficit alleged by President Stroger.

Last week, President Stroger held a press conference to announce he intends to raise taxes. He announced a menu of seven taxes from which he will choose, including the sales tax and taxes on beverages and prepared foods. In addition, he has indicated a need to raise property taxes for the forest preserve district for the 13th consecutive year.

Although President Stroger has presented the taxes he hopes to raise, he has yet to actually submit a budget, even though the new fiscal year begins Dec. 1. Nor has he explained how his budget deficit projections were calculated.

No budget in memory has been presented this late, or after a new fiscal year has begun.

In order for the county government to continue functioning, the board of commissioners must pass a continuing resolution Wednesday, in lieu of a budget. Such a resolution, if passed, would authorize new spending to keep the government operating.

The county's union contracts also expire Wednesday, and a federal judge is threatening commissioners with contempt of court penalties if the county continues to drag its feet in passing a new budget that contains additional jail guards for the correctional department. A 22-year-old consent decree requires certain minimum staffing-to-living unit ratios.

-more-
Among the targeted budget cuts are:

· Reductions in overtime to mirror reforms at the City of Chicago, saving $30 million.
· Elimination of 1,000 vacant positions, approximately half of the 2004 vacancies, saving $49 million.
· Reductions in inflated cash reserves set aside to reflect vacancies during the fiscal year, by adopting the historical vacancy rate, saving $40 million.
· Elimination of "step" increases for non-union employees, providing COLA's only, saving $26 million.
· Consolidation of duplicative administrative, financial, security and public relations functions scattered across various agencies and bureaus, saving $8 million.
· Adoption of technology in various offices and departments, saving $5 million in the fourth quarter of '05.
· Privatization of janitorial services performed by the Cook County Sheriff, saving $3 million.

Cook County employs nearly 27,000 employees and spends $3 billion annually. The County Board has raised taxes by more than $600 million in the past dozen years. In addition, the County Board has raised property taxes for its forest preserve district for 13 consecutive years.


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