No layoffs in proposed 2019 Cook County budget

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Cook County employees will get to keep their jobs for now because of an unexpected growth in revenue, according to Toni Preckwinkle’s 2019 budget recommendation.

Combined, revenues for the general fund and the health enterprise fund, which make up the county’s operating fund, exceeded projected numbers by roughly $46 million and $58 million, respectively. That helped close up the roughly $82 million hole county officials projected they’d have to fill for 2019, according to the proposed budget.

Those new revenues, which are partly comprised of more property tax dollars being available to the general fund and more residents joining the county’s Medicaid expansion program, CountyCare –– for the health fund –– helped close the shortfall.

The county’s Chief Financial Officer, Ammar Rizki, said that banking on the continued growth of CountyCare to continue to generate revenue for the health fund is a “strategic sort of view” given the county’s “commitment to be the safety net provider in this area.”

“We want to provide quality healthcare for Cook County residents,” Rizki said. “Yes, there has been an increase, a very large increase, and you can say the associated risks are large too, but that’s where the health system is keenly focused: to make sure those folks do get the right level of care that they need.”

But there are things that could go wrong and stem the flow of revenue the county is seeing for the health fund. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, especially the Medicaid expansion piece of the act, that could stop revenue from coming in.

If the state struggles to keep up with its reimbursements to the county as it has in the past, that could also hurt the revenue flow the county is currently seeing, Rizki said.

Preckwinkle said the 2019 budget supports her dedication to criminal justice, health care and county residents.

“I believe this balanced budget is another step toward realizing my vision and priorities for Cook County,” the board president said. “It includes no new taxes, fees or fines.”

In June, Preckwinkle said the officials had their “work cut out” for them when preliminary projections were released.

The budget Preckwinkle presented Wednesday still lacks new revenue sources to keep up with county spending, and with a lack of political will on the board to create new revenue sources its unlikely that the next budget will have new revenue either.

The most recent revenue source introduced was the county’s controversial sweetened beverage tax. After repealing the sweetened beverage tax, commissioners faced a $200 million deficit for 2018.

Now that Preckwinkle has made her recommendation, the county’s various departments will have hearings with the Finance Committee over the course of the next two weeks.

Then, in November, the budget — in its current state or with budget-neutral amendments — heads to the board for approval. The goal is to have a budget approved before Dec. 1, the start of the 2019 fiscal year.

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Politics

via Chicago – Chicago Sun-Times https://ift.tt/2xAxGgE

October 10, 2018 at 01:05PM

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