CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s balanced, there are no new taxes or fees. and there are no layoffs.
Those are three reasons Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and her budget staff believe the FY2020 budget she is about to propose is good news.
She is looking to hire more people to help with criminal record expungement but overall, Preckwinkle says the number of county jobs will drop.
Preckwinkle has repeatedly said that the county’s brown and black population has been hammered by the war on drugs, especially when it comes to marijuana.
Now, months before the drug becomes legal, Preckwinkle wants to add more than two dozen staffers in the county State’s Attorney and Clerk’s offices to handle cannabis-related expungement requests.
Preckwinkle’s budget staff expect about 700,000 people will apply to have their criminal records expunged in just the next few years.
She also wants to hire more people to deal with increasing property tax appeals.
Even though Preckwinkle is proposing these new hires, overall, the number of county jobs would drop by 401 next year by eliminating already-vacant hospital and medical jobs.
Preckwinkle said that effort is one way she is able to provide a balanced $6.18 billion budget and close what was a $19 million shortfall as recently as June.
One thing the county is not banking on this year is tax dollars from the sale of marijuana, which becomes legal for recreational use in Illinois on Jan. 1.
That is mostly because the State of Illinois will not start collecting those tax dollars until September 2020.
However, the county is expecting an estimated $3.2 million from revenue new anticipated casinos in Chicago and in the south suburbs, and $1.75 million from an additional 2 percent tax on online sports betting.
In addition, the budget touts funding for new health centers in North Riverside and Blue Island, and a community block grant for suburban Cook County to foster a better economy and better housing and infrastructure. Further, the budget devotes $8.6 million to enhance Cook County’s collaboration with its public safety partners to improve fairness and functioning in the criminal justice system.
Foundations for the budget also include creating jobs for the rehabilitation of polluted brownfields, and improving the infrastructure to expand high-speed internet access.
Although the lack of new taxes, fees, or layoffs is considered a good-news budget for now, it could be temporary. The county budget staff say moving forward in 2021, the county could be facing a budget deficit of more than $100 million.
State law requires the county to pass a balanced budget by the end of February each year.