County Board President Toni Preckwinkle outlines $6.9B budget plan

Chicago News

CHICAGO —  Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle proposed Thursday morning a 2021 budget of $6.9 billion. The plan comes without a tax hike, but does include hundreds of job cuts.

Despite a projected $92 million drop in general revenue funds, mostly due to the negative impact of COVID-19, Preckwinkle is boosting county spending by $700 million.     

Breakdown of $6.9 Billion 2021 Cook County Budget:

  • Healthcare: $3.4 Billion
  • Public Safety: $1.3 Billion
  • Annuity & Benefits: $543 Million
  • Capital Projects: $517 Million
  • Finance & Administration: $416 Million
  • Property & Taxation: $115 Million

As always, Stroger Hospital and Cook County Healthcare, along with public safety, making up 88% of the operating budget. 

With the elimination of 659 vacant positions, many of those openings at the Cook County Jail and the Sheriff’s Department, the county hopes to save $61 million. 

Preckwinkle, finding $100 million for racial and economic equity initiatives with grants to social service organizations, focused on violence reduction, charity health care programs and reduced Metra fares and other transportation enhancements to benefit low-income South Side commuters.    

But the budget also relies on drawing down $76 million from the county’s reserve funds. Preckwinkle says she’s not counting on any federal bailouts or additional COVID-19 recovery dollars from Washington.

The budget has drawn ire from some residents, including union leaders with National Nurses United, who pointed to recent layoff notices.

“We feel like we’ve been lied to. Somebody told us we were essential workers. How essential can you be when you got layoff letters saying, ‘we no longer need your services?'” one nurse said.

Preckwinkle is also allocating $100 million for racial and economic equity initiatives. The money will go towards organizations focused on violence reduction, charity health care programs and reduced transportation fares.

County residents will have a chance to weigh in on the budget. Public Hearings will be scheduled in the days ahead.

The Cook County Board expected to vote on the 2021 budget by the end of November. 

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