Sher­iff’s of­fice, chief judge bear brunt of new pro­posed bud­get cuts

Chicago Sun-Times - - POLITICS ANOTHER VIEW - BY RACHEL HIN­TON Staff Re­porter Email: rhin­ton@suntimes.com Twit­ter: @rrhin­ton

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 1,000. 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 hard­est 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 Oct. 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.

| SUN- TIMES FILE PHOTO

Toni Preck­win­kle pro­posed new bud­get cuts that would most im­pact the of­fices of the sher­iff and the chief judge.

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