Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle unveils FY22 Executive Budget Recommendation

Despite continued COVID-19 pressures, budget includes no increases to existing taxes

 

CHICAGO — Today, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle presented a proposed $8 billion Executive Budget Recommendation for Fiscal Year 2022, which equitably addresses the County’s ongoing pandemic response efforts while not increasing taxes or cutting critical services.

“A decade of tough decisions and strategic management has helped create this $8 billion balanced budget. It’s a budget that reflects our values, our commitment to advancing equity and creates a path to an even stronger Cook County,” said President Preckwinkle. “I’m proud of our work to navigate this pandemic in a fiscally responsible manner. We have accomplished a lot in the last year and I look forward to the work ahead that will sustain our recovery and create a stronger, more equitable future.”

Preckwinkle noted that the County was able to close a $121.43 million budget gap without the need for raising new revenue. A combination of financially responsible efforts, federal relief and recovery aid, and a higher than previously forecasted revenue helped close the substantial general fund budget hole. Higher than previously forecasted revenue figures were primarily found in newer tax sources like cannabis, gaming, and online sales and have also helped balance this budget without the need for taxes.

In the coming year, with an equity lens at the core of the decision-making process, Cook County will use nearly a quarter of the billion American Rescue Plan Act dollars to fund programs in alignment with the Cook County Policy Roadmap. While the County’s planning continues and estimates are subject to change, Preckwinkle provided a snapshot of how federal relief funding will be spent including:

  • $80 million dollars to fund economic development initiatives like cash assistance programs and a guaranteed income pilot, short and long-term housing support, workforce development program expansions and assistance to small businesses.
  • $60 million toward healthcare and access initiatives like increased behavioral health and mental health programming and services as well as initiatives promoting access to food and nutrition.
  • $60 million for equity and justice initiatives like alternatives to 911 for mental health crises, expansion of permanent housing for re-entry populations and expansion of violence prevention programs and support for youth and young adults.
  • $40 million on high priority infrastructure projects like investing in digital equity through broadband infrastructure expansion.
  • $20 million for environmental projects like pollution prevention and hazard mitigation programs that promote clean air, water and protection from environmental disasters.
  • $27 million for regional programs such as Suburban Local Jurisdiction Technical Assistance, a Suburban Capital Infrastructure Fund and the development of emergency preparedness and continuity of government plans.

Preckwinkle also called attention to the fact that Cook County has provided supplemental pension payments of almost $1.95 billion dollars above the required contribution since 2016, significantly reducing the unfunded pension liability and allowing the Cook County Pension Fund to keep its assets invested and take advantage of good market performance. The Pension Fund’s funded ratio increased to 63.9% in just 5 years; without supplemental funding the ratio would be 53.3% at most.

“We continue to put more and more into the pension system, going above and beyond to ensure stable and secure pensions," said President Preckwinkle. "I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish in terms of supplementing and supporting our pension obligations, especially during the many challenges of the pandemic.”

Preckwinkle also highlighted several important items and investments in the budget that will be moving forward in the coming year:

  • $384 million in charity care—Cook County provides more than 50% of charity care in the County despite being only two of the 68 hospitals in the County.
  • Focus on public health response, outreach and education: hyper-local vaccination programs and continued work for ongoing COVID-19 response including contact tracing.
  • Construction and expansion of healthcare services: 
    • Opening Belmont Cragin health clinic
    • Renovations and additions to Provident Hospital
    • Expansion of service lines (neurology, cardiology and oncology)
    • Restoration of ambulance runs and expansion of inpatient capacity at Provident Hospital
  • Expansion of vital programs launched with CARES Act funding, such as continued rounds of emergency rental assistance, including a partnership with the Office of the Chief Judge to offer these services through a new Eviction Support Program which expedites the review process.
  • $53 million in equity fund investments for restorative and social justice grants, and initiatives recommended through the Equity Fund Taskforce to promote safe and thriving communities.
  • Investments within the Circuit Court Clerk (CCC) and Office of Chief Judge to expand access to courts including the build out of a new call center within the CCC which will serve as a one-stop shop for those looking to navigate the court system, and additional clerks within the Chief Judge’s office to assist users of the courts navigating the new zoom/virtual court hearings.
  • Expansion of critical tech infrastructure to promote access to government services and project efficiencies, such as the ongoing work to build out the County’s integrated property tax system.
  • Increased investment in environmental planning through the creation of Pollution Prevention and Resiliency Planning Units to assist business and local government units.
  • Continued remediation of brownfields in the west and south suburbs.
  • Continued demolition of underutilized County facilities including on the detention center campus.
  • Continued support for the “Invest in Cook” program headed by Department of Transportation and Highways ($8.5 million investment).
  • Continued re-design and upgrades of County buildings to align with the County’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050.
  • Investment in broadband infrastructure to bridge the digital divide; County to provide matching funds to Connect Illinois broadband grant received from the State of Illinois.
  • Increase of 7% in County FTEs to prepare capacity for the rising demand of government services and to provide support for ARPA initiatives.

“Amid a historic pandemic, this proposed budget will have no tax increase, no cuts to critical services and will be balanced while increasing our investments in equity. The good work we’ve done will guide the good work we will do,” Preckwinkle concluded in her budget address to the Board of Commissioners.

All FY2022 budget information has been posted to the Cook County website, allowing the public to review documents and engage with the President’s Office directly. An interactive budget website has been launched and provides interactive, historic data and detailed budget information. This immersive budget portal will enhance residents’ access and understanding of budget information and County finances. Starting today, residents can also now submit budget questions here.

Download the Budget at Glance document here

Read President Preckwinkle's full budget address here

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