With Cook County facing a budget shortfall, commissioners are seeking ways to cut down on costs, and two branch courthouses on the Northwest Side may soon be facing the axe.
Without the revenue from the controversial sugary beverage tax, which was repealed earlier this month, Chief Judge Timothy Evans and other department heads are being asked to make major cuts for next year.
“The repairs and the upkeep would be in excess of $5 million,” Evans said. “Our preliminary feedback is that the unions are willing to consider what I’m describing.”
Evans’ proposals including closing the two branch courts, located at Belmont and Western, as well as instituting 20 furlough days for staff. He also suggested suspending the Public Guardian’s Home Care Unit and eventually suspending the county’s Traffic Safety Program.
Commissioners, who are also scrambling for answers to the county’s budget woes, spoke out about the potential closures.
“I think we have to look at the buildings,” Commissioner Edward Moody said. “We have buildings that are in disrepair, and they should probably be torn down to begin with.”
Earlier this week, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart suggested closing the suburban Bridgeview county courthouse, but Judge Evans suggested the two Branch courts in the city instead.
“Any efficiencies that we can get in county government, taxpayers expect us to get them,” Commissioner Richard Boykin said.
The proposal to close a courthouse will be a step toward fixing budget issues, but President Toni Preckwinkle’s spokesman warned that such a move will take time to implement, and may not yield the immediate savings needed for the next fiscal year.