Not enough layoffs mean Cook County is still short on budget goals

September 28, 2011

Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle reported Tuesday that the county's falling short of its goal to trim budget costs.

Almost 360 employees have been laid off this year, instead of the 500 that County Board President Toni Preckwinkle asked for in March. That's down from an original projected 1,350.

The number of requested layoffs was reduced in part because of a deal brokered with union workers, which saved over $30 million for the year. Workers were required to take 10  furloughs and shutdown days.

"There's still two months left," said spokeswoman Jesse Neves. "I think layoffs are still going to be happening, cost-cutting measures are still going to be happening. You know, people are still implementing measures to hit their turnover number. I don't think that there's a specific projection that I want to hit, but we are still working towards increasing that number."

The county has saved $13 million this fiscal year from layoffs, $6 million less than projected. According to the president's office, this is partially due to the Cook County hospitals, which originally said they would lay off 593 employees, but has only let go of 188.

Reducing the hospital budget has been a goal throughout Preckwinkle's administration, and one that has been a source of contention among the board. Last week, Commissioner William Beavers said he wouldn't be taking his furlough days, to protest money being taken away from hospitals such as Oak Forest, which has been converted into a clinic. But Neves said Preckwinkle's office has continued to work with Cook County Health and Hospitals System to reduce their budget.

"The president's office has recognized that the health care system needs support," she said, admitting that the process hasn't moved as quickly as they would have liked.

Preckwinkle's office plans to deliver a budget to the Bureau of Finance some time in October.

Calls to the CCHHS were not returned.