Balanced budget includes no increases to existing taxes.
On Thursday, Oct. 10, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle presented a proposed $6.18 billion Executive Operating Budget Recommendation for Fiscal Year 2020 aimed at guiding her administration’s work on justice, health, and economic development, without the need to increase existing taxes.
“This budget is building on our commitment to serving as a good steward of public resources and creating vibrant and sustainable communities for all residents. It does this without the need to increase existing taxes,” Preckwinkle said. “My vision for a better Cook County hasn’t come without challenges and difficulties. Doing what is right isn’t always easy.”
The $6.18 billion recommendation is driven by several policy goals to enhance Cook County’s services to ensure vital health care access for vulnerable residents, foster a fair justice system aimed at violence prevention and reducing recidivism, provide economic development to underserved communities, and invest in infrastructure while promoting long-term fiscal stability.
The Executive Operating Budget Recommendation closes an $18.7 million shortfall announced in June. This forecast represented the lowest preliminary gap total since President Preckwinkle took office and an almost 96 percent decrease from the $487 million encountered in her first year in office. President Preckwinkle also reiterated that nearly 90% of proposed budget expenditures, excluding pensions and debt service, is budgeted for public health and public safety. Departments that operate under the President’s direct control only comprise approximately 8% of the budget.
In the coming year, Cook County Health (CCH) will continue transforming into a healthcare organization of choice by providing outstanding clinics and specialty care across Cook County while continuing to improve patient experiences and provide quality healthcare and services regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Despite operating only two of the 68 hospitals in Cook County, CCH provides over 50% of all charity care in the County and therefore serves as a safety net for many residents.
In recent years CCH has seen an increase in uncompensated care. The FY2020 uncompensated care costs are expected to increase by approximately $46 million over the prior year to $590 million. The increase in uncompensated care can be partially attributed to delays in Medicaid application processing at the State level. CCH has identified several strategies in the FY2020 budget to help ensure success in FY2020, including eliminating vacant positions and working closely with Illinois Health and Family Services on application processing.
By pushing for criminal justice and bond reform Cook County has experienced a sustained reduction in the jail pre-trial detainee population without a negative impact to public safety. This year, Cook County is allocating millions more to enhance Cook County’s collaborative efforts with its public safety partners and continue our work to transform the criminal justice system into one that is fair, efficient, compassionate and transparent. In 2020, the County will award grants to numerous community-based organizations to support violence prevention, recidivism reduction and restorative justice. Since Preckwinkle took office, Cook County has distributed almost $18 million dollars in grants to community partners.
“We are working to create safe communities and an equitable and fair justice system for all residents, Cook County will continue to implement sustainable reforms within the criminal justice system, invest in community-based services and work with public safety stakeholders to provide the resources necessary to reduce violence,” Preckwinkle said.
Additionally, Cook County has provided supplemental pension payments of $1.3 billion dollars above the statutorily required contribution.
“Cook County is on track to provide supplemental pension payments of more than $1.3 billion due to smart management and responsible fiscal stewardship,” Preckwinkle said. “As other municipalities and governments struggle with pension liabilities, we continue to put more into the system and have created a path to solvency and security. We are dedicating supplemental funding to shore up the pension fund with over $300 million annually above the statutory contribution to take definitive steps toward addressing this challenge. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish and will continue working to put our County on strong financial footing.”
All FY2020 budget information and a public hearing schedule has been posted to the Cook County website, allowing the public to review documents and engage with the President’s Office directly. The budget website has recently been overhauled and now provides interactive historic data and detailed budget information. This immersive budget portal will enhance residents’ access and understanding of budget information and County finances.