Tom Dart, Commissioners Push Back on Preckwinkle's Lay-Off Directive

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says that he will be forced to lay off 17 percent of his workforce after a court order has blocked the county’s new tax on sugary beverages, and that’s just part of the massive wave of pink slips that could be coming.

The lay-offs come as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle ordered 1100 total lay-offs to deal with a budget shortfall that comes in the aftermath of a judge blocking implementation of the new county tax on sugary beverages.

Preckwinkle gave Dart a list of 925 employees that he would have to lay-off, but the sheriff pushed back against the directive.

“I had to explain to them that that’s not practical and not workable,” Dart said. “They’re saying that they’re going to have 1100 cuts total throughout the county, and I’m going to take 80 percent of them? That’s insane.”

The beverage tax, which charges consumers one cent per fluid ounce on sodas, teas, and flavored waters, is on hold through at least next week, when the next court date is scheduled on its legality.

Three Cook County commissioners are stepping forward to try to come up with an alternative way to cut the budget.

“This is nothing more than a scare tactic to encourage the judiciary, and to bully them in a way,” Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin said.

Preckwinkle framed it a different way.

“87 percent of our budget is public health and public safety,” she said. “So if we don’t have revenue, we end up laying off doctors and nurses, prosecutors and public defenders, and jail guards.”

The push by Preckwinkle to lay-off employees isn’t sitting well with commissioners, who have another suggestion for ways to trim money from the county budget.

“It’s always the case where we talk about laying off doctors and nurses, but let’s look into our budget. Let’s cut out the lengthy bureaucracy that we have in Cook County,” County Commissioner Tim Schneider said.

The tax was projected to raise $67 million in revenue by the end of 2017, but that was before it was put on hold by a court. The tax was set to take effect on July 1 at the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Employees who will be laid off could begin to find out starting on Friday, according to NBC 5. 

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