Photo: Courtesy of NBC Chicago
Already burdened by a huge public pension debt, Cook County, Ill., now faces a 16% shortfall in next year’s budget as tax revenues continue to plummet.The county’s $3.2 billion budget, unveiled late yesterday, faces a $315 million shortfall, county commissioners told the Chicago Tribune late yesterday.
About $96 million of the deficit comes from the county’s independent health and hospitals system. Budget pressures are also partly the result of the commissioners’ decision to roll back part of a 1% sales tax increase, which will reduce revenue by $53 million.
Layoffs are “inevitable,” County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said last night. Employee costs make up about 80% of Cook County’s budget.
The county has not yet decided how many layoffs will be needed to close the budget gap. Furloughs, privatizing public assets, outsourcing contracts, and combining services with the City of Chicago are also on the table.
For now, the county board president has ordered a 5% cut in non-employee spending — a move that will save the county only $5 million.
The news comes on the heels of a staggering report on the state of the county’s public pension funds. The report, a semi-complete account of pension debt in the county’s 553 municipalities and school districts, found that local governments have a combined unfunded pension obligation of at least $108 billion.
To give you some perspective, that amounts to at least $33,000 per suburban Cook County household — the tax bill more than doubles for those living in Chicago.
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