The Cook County sheriff and courts system are among the departments to face the toughest cuts under Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s latest proposal to close the nearly $200 million hole in the budget.
The latest round of proposed reductions includes cutting an additional 746 vacant positions — bringing the total of eliminated vacancies to one thousand. The remaining vacancies are in the county’s hospital system.
More than 200 people would be laid off, and nearly 100 vacant positions would be cut from the Cook County Sheriff’s office, making it one of the worst hit by the proposal. Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans said in a statement that his office would see about 200 layoffs. Combined, cuts to the two offices would also save the county around $19 million under the county’s emphasis on core values and mission.
Evans said in a statement that he met his “obligation” through cuts he has already submitted. He plans to continue to do “important work in 2018 under the balanced budget plan that I have proposed.”
“When I appeared before county commissioners for my budget hearing on October 27, I presented this plan and indicated that if it is accepted by the board and the employee unions, nobody would have to lose their job,” Evans said. “That is the best route for our system of justice and the members of the public whom we serve.”
Cara Smith, chief policy adviser to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, said the sheriff’s office is making progress in negotiations.
“We’re going to continue to work cooperatively with the president and the commissioners to address this unprecedented budget crisis and make sure it doesn’t pose a threat to public safety,” Smith said. “We’re in a better place than we were months ago when this budget process started, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed as we move forward.”
Commissioner Richard Boykin, who has urged his colleagues and Preckwinkle to “take a scalpel, not a hatchet” to the budget, said the latest cuts show the county “leading the way as a unit of government in tightening our belt without raising taxes or cutting critical services to people.”
“These cuts won’t decimate public health or public safety so we keep all those vital services, which are the basis of our government, functioning,” Boykin said. “It’s likely that we could have cut more, but this is a good start in reshaping county government to make it more responsive to the needs of the people.”
During budget presentations over the past few weeks, Boykin has been one of the main advocates for eliminating vacancies. Though he has yet to see the final package, Boykin said he likes what he’s heard so far and he’s inclined to support it.
The goal now is for commissioners to vote on the amended budget Nov. 21.