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Cook County Sheriff's Office Pushes Back On Preckwinkle's Budget Cuts

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office is pushing back against the number of layoffs requested by Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has ordered countywide budget cuts after her sweetened beverage tax was blocked in court.

Sheriff spokeswoman Cara Smith on Wednesday said 125 positions will be cut instead of the 925 that Preckwinkle’s office requested two weeks ago. Most of those will come from 113 recruits who were training to become correctional officers.

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Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle departing the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office in 2012. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

M. Spencer Green/AP

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office is pushing back against the number of layoffs requested by Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has ordered countywide budget cuts after her sweetened beverage tax was blocked in court.

Sheriff spokeswoman Cara Smith on Wednesday said 125 positions will be cut instead of the 925 that Preckwinkle’s office requested two weeks ago. Most of those will come from 113 recruits who were training to become correctional officers.

Nearly 70 recruits were expected to report to a training academy on Monday, she said, and almost 50 were already five weeks into their training when they received pink slips.

Smith said Sheriff Tom Dart won’t cut more.

“We’re not going to cut any deeper. This is where we are,” Smith said. “We’ve put our plan forward to the county and we have implemented our plan and we are moving forward.”

The sheriff’s cuts represent a total of $17.9 million, Smith said. That’s less than the $21.9 million demanded by Preckwinkle.

All county departments and agencies have been asked by Preckwinkle to cut 10 percent from their budgets after a county judge last month put a temporary hold on a penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages. Preckwinkle pushed the tax through the county board in November to help balance the county’s budget.

But the Illinois Retail Merchants Association sued the county and asked a judge to put a hold on the tax, which the group claims is vague and unconstitutional.

Preckwinkle, speaking on WBEZ’s Morning Shift last week, said she is unable to get county commissioners to sign off on raising other taxes, like property taxes, and her only option is making cuts.

The 925 represented 15.4 percent of the sheriff’s total workforce, Smith said, which Dart found unacceptable. Preckwinkle had asked for each department to cut 10 percent from their budget in response to the county not collecting $17 million a month from the tax.

Preckwinkle’s office had no comment on the sheriff’s cuts. She will be presiding over a County Board meeting Wednesday.

The lawsuit against the sweetened beverage tax brought by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association is scheduled to be back in court Friday. The county had been counting on the tax to generate nearly $270 million over the next two years.

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