Cook County Commissioners Approve 2018 Budget With Unanimous Vote

Cook County commissioners unanimously passed a controversial 2018 budget plan that calls for drastic cuts across the board in wake of the failed sweetened beverage tax. 

"Today was a historic day for the taxpayers of Cook County," Commissioner Richard Boykin said in a statement following the vote. 

The budget plan included more than 300 layoffs in total, including some in the Cook County Assessor's office, the Board of Review, the Chief Judge, the sheriff's office and others. 

Boykin said while positions were eliminated, no front-line sheriff's police officers were laid off and no assistant state's attorneys or assistant public defenders were let go. 

"While much of the discussion has been over eliminated positions, there are other newly created positions," Boykin said. 

Among those new positions are an investigator in the Independent Inspector General's Office, who will be "dedicated to rooting out sexual harassment." 

Positions in both the sheriff's office and Public Guardian's office were saved, Boykin noted.

Commissioners were still tweaking the budget into Tuesday morning, looking to scale back some of the cuts in the inital proposal. 

“Through shared sacrifice and cooperation we were able to develop and pass a balanced budget,” President Preckwinkle said in a statement Tuesday. “We have had to make exceedingly difficult but necessary choices, but we have met our fiscal obligation to the people of Cook County. While at the same time protecting key public health and public safety services.

Public Guardian employees spoke out about the predicted loss of 22 positions, and a last-minute deal appears to have saved their office from the devastating cuts. 

"The Budget Office has worked today to restore the 22 positions due for layoffs in the Public Guardian's Office," Frank Shuftan, director of communications for Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement Monday. "Advocates for the Public Guardian made a compelling case over the weekend and today to roll back the planned layoffs and maintain service levels."

The $5.2 billion budget plan closes a $200.6 million budget gap left when commissioners voted to repeal her highly contested sweetened beverage tax, Preckwinkle said. 

The repeal vote took place just two months after the tax took effect in the area. The tax will begin being phased out beginning Dec. 1.

"What we realized was that the revenue from the sweetened beverage tax was never truly needed to keep the county afloat," Boykin said. 

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