Cook County 2016 Budget Over $500 Million in New Taxes and Little Reform –Why I Voted NO
On November 18, 2015 the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed the Fiscal Year2016 Budget. For the second year, and only the second time as a Commissioner, I voted “NO” on the budget. I did this because the budget showed a lack of reform, planning and coordination that now subjects our taxpayers to over $500 million in new taxes and the highest sales tax and hotel tax in the nation. I voted “No” on these taxes.
As I reported to you earlier this year, the sales tax increase was done outside of our adopted budget process. Because we did not follow our normal budget process, there was no plan to ensure that the funds would be properly spent and no justification for the need to layer on additional taxes unto already overtaxed Cook County Residents. When this budget was introduced, there was a request for $30 million more in taxes and fees in addition to the already approved $474 million a year sales tax increase.
During the last week, as the Amusement Tax increase of $21 million failed to get enough support for passage, a new $31 million Hotel Tax was proposed. There was no planning or coordination to determine what this Hotel Tax would mean to the region’s economy and what effect it would have on jobs. The Hotel Tax was combined with $4.9 million in new court filing fees to present a “reasonable and modest” tax increase. These taxes and fees will have great detrimental effect on our citizens and the regional economy and are not “reasonable and modest”.
A year ago, I pointed out our need to plan for criminal justice issues to reduce the gun threat and reduce overall violence in our county. During the last year the Chief Judge, State’s Attorney, Public Defender and Sheriff have been required to report on their efforts to reduce crime through pretrial service programs and drug diversion programs. Their efforts have been working but the response to success has been to restrict programs that work in this budget. The Chief Judge’s budget and that of the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center(JTDC) were restricted and the State’s Attorney’s very successful Drug Diversion was eliminated. The County Board restored successful programs in those budgets by adopting amendments that I sponsored. In addition, I was able to restore the Chief Judge’s successful Mortgage Mediation Program which has helped thousands of people keep their homes during the foreclosure crisis.
A year ago I was blocked when I tried to get additional funding for our pension system. I stated that we would need $160 million in additional payments this year. This budget makes a $270 million payment to the pension fund which helps avoid an immediate crisis but efforts to ensure future additional payment were defeated. The pension issue must have a long term solution.
I was unable to restore full funding to the Restorative Justice Program, Access to Care Health Plan, and the Bridge Behavioral Health Aftercare for children being discharged from the JTDC. These programs improve the quality of life in our County and I will continue to fight for them.
This budget also puts the Cook County Health and Hospital System in jeopardy because it cuts $42 million from the County’s subsidy to the System. While the System is working better than ever and we are serving more insured patients this is not the time to lessen our support. If the System is to stand on its own in the future, we must support it adequately now.
Finally, this budget delays for 6 months a 2% pay raise for all non-union County workers. All union workers will get the 2% raise immediately. This is not right. All County workers should be treated the same. For all these reasons I voted “NO” on the Budget.
GOOD INTENTIONS AND PURPOSE DO NOT IMPROVE BAD TAX POLICY
On July 15, 2015, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted 9-7 (with one present vote) to re-enact the 1% sales tax that had been repealed in 2010. I voted "NO." The original 1 % sales tax started in 2008 and proved to be an economic disaster for Cook County, causing the loss of jobs and the closing of many retail businesses. It also caused Cook County residents to pay the highest sales tax in the nation.
For the first time in Cook County history a tax was imposed outside of the budget process. The reason this is significant is that in the budget process there is a planning function that allows for the binding application of the taxes to specific purposes. This budget process helps ensure that the tax is not excessive and that there is no creation of slush funds for future spending.
The new sales tax is both excessive and unnecessary to meet our current needs. The tax will generate $474 million annually, far in excess of what the County needs.
The repeal of the 2008 tax was hailed as an enlightened moment for Cook County and led to an economic resurgence of our retail sales economy. Today we not only threaten that retail economy, but we put our whole County economy on the brink of a serious downturn.
When I voted “NO” on the current year’s budget last November I warned that there was no planning for future public safety, healthcare and pension needs. Today’s return of the sales tax shows that the lack of planning has continued.
The purpose of the new sales tax increase is to stabilize our pensions, help with paying down our debt payments and increase spending on County infrastructure. All of these are laudable ideas, but passing the tax now outside of the budget process does not guarantee that proper allocation of the tax receipts will be made.
In fact, the Administration has stated that the primary goal of making large additional pension payments is prohibited by current Illinois law.
Not only is a sales tax regressive and bad for those with the smallest incomes, it is also an economic disaster for all. The only people who benefit from seeing Cook County’s sales tax raised to 10.25% are the collar counties, whose sales tax is at least 3% lower.
I will now start working to make the case to repeal this unjust tax again.
Commissioner Suffredin seeks donations of your warm coats, scarves, hats and gloves for all ages! Your warm gear donation now through December 2, 2015 benefits the Family Health Network.
Please drop off your gently-used clean coats, or new scarves, hats and gloves for all ages to the district office – 820 Davis Street, Suite 104, Evanston any Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm.
All donations will be given to the Family Health Network, Chicago for their distribution to families throughout our Cook County Region.
Thank you in advance for your kind consideration. We welcome your questions at (847) 864-1209 and look forward to receiving your warm coats, new scarves, hats and gloves for all ages in our 820 Davis Street Coat Drive Drop Box!
WORKDAY ANNOUNCEMENT FOR PERKINS WOODS!
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5
INVASIVE SPECIES REMOVAL
Buckthorn and honeysuckle are marked for cutting.
Removal involves cutting and dragging trees to the woodland edges.
Steering committee volunteers will herbicide the stumps.
TIMES: 9:30 AM-NOON
RAIN, SNOW OR SHINE; ORIENTATION AT 9:30 AM.
MEET: at the kiosk at Grant and Bennett for sign in, equipment, assignments and orientation.
CLOTHING: dress according to the weather; wear boots; bring water; equipment and refreshments provided
PLEASE SIGN UP EARLY TO VOLUNTEER:
CONTACT LIBBY HILL, 847-475-2096, email@example.com.
Individuals, families, Scout Groups, Birders, Nature Lovers,
No experience needed.
BUCKTHORN AND HONEYSUCKLE
COMPETE WITH SUNLIGHT AND SPACE FOR NATIVE PLANTS;
THEIR REMOVAL ALLOWS NATIVE SPECIES THE RESOURCES TO THRIVE
Meet friends and neighbors and enjoy the out-of-doors
2015 COOK COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONER'S INFORMATION GUIDE
For information on the policies and procedures of the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 2015, please click here.
Moody's Investors Service Rating Update:
Downgraded to A2 from A1 the rating on Cook County general obligation debt. To read the full report click here
COOK COUNTY COMMISSIONER LARRY SUFFREDIN'S STATEMENT ON THE 2014-2018 TERM
On December 1st, I will begin my fourth term as a Cook County Commissioner and a Cook County Forest Preserve Commissioner. Along with the other 16 Commissioners, we will be the legislative authority of the largest County in Illinois. The new Board is a group of talented people with diverse and independent ideas to improve the County and I am excited about our potential.
However, in order for Cook County to move forward, it is crucial that we have an independent Board that cooperates with the President of the County Board and other elected County officials.
As a Board we must take responsibility to develop plans that respect the taxpayers of the County; deal with violence in our neighborhoods; strengthen health care; and treat fairly our Cook County employees’ pensions. To accomplish this I suggest the following:
- Stop blaming Todd Stroger for every Cook County problem. He has been gone for four years and the problems of criminal justice reform, healthcare delivery and proper funding of employees pensions are ours to solve.
- Keep our residents truthfully informed about all aspects of the County, especially the need for additional revenues in the coming months to stabilize pensions, healthcare and criminal justice. Cook County government is often described as “stealth government “because few really know what we do and how we spend Tax dollars. We must become better known and understood.
- Take responsibility for the operating budget of over $ 3 Billion by explaining the actual cost of:
- running the largest local government public hospital and clinic system in Illinois with over 1 million patient appointments and visits a year;
- funding the largest court system in the United States with more cases filed and disposed of each year than most states;
- running the largest single site jail in Illinois with nearly 10,000 daily pre-trial detainees;
- funding the government for 5.25 million people in the second largest county in the United States;
- running fair elections in suburban Cook County for over 2.5 million people;
- recording birth and death certificates and property records;
- assessing the value for tax purposes of over 1.8 million parcels of real estate;
- collecting real estate taxes to fund all municipalities and local governments in Cook County;
- Maintaining 1,474 miles of highway, 130 bridges and 332 traffic signals; and
- Paying our pension and salary obligations to over 22,000 employees and retirees.
- Making our responsibilities as Cook County Forest Preserve Commissioners a priority. We are celebrating 100 years of the Forest Preserve District’s protection of 69,000 plus acres of remarkable sites. We must set the priorities for the next 100 years that focus on conservation.
Finally, and most importantly, the fair and legal solution to our pension obligation needs to be our top priority. The anticipated retirement of hundreds of County workers upon passage of a pension plan will drastically effect how the County operates. Solving our pension obligations will help us properly fund all other operations of the County.
This new Cook County Board has the talent to solve all our problems and to make our citizens proud. I am looking forward to starting the new term.
Commissioner Larry Suffredin's Statement on the Passage of the 2015 Cook County Budget
On November 14, 2014, the Cook County Board passed the 2015 Budget. For the first time, I voted against the overall budget. I did this because the budget was not transparent enough and it hid serious structural flaws that postpone serious funding deficits until next year.
This budget contains no new taxes, fees or fines. It does signal that significant revenue increases will be necessary next year to meet our healthcare and pension needs. Postponing bad news does not eliminate it. There is no planning for next year built into this election year budget. Transparency requires that I warn people of the coming budget storm. The failure to 1) properly address our increasing jail population, 2) shore up CountyCare; and 3) stabilize our government in the face of pension changes will have a profound impact on the future of Cook County.
A year ago, I hailed a budget that showed promise to save money and provide quality service. It was a sea change for Cook County; making Public Safety the cornerstone of the budget rather than Healthcare.
Unfortunately, this change did not work. I had hoped that today I would be reporting to you that we had reduced crime and made progress on reducing recidivism. Instead, I report to you that much more work is needed.
I offered amendments and ideas to strengthen our commitment to expanding successful pretrial service programs and diversion programs run by the Chief Judge and supported by the best efforts of the State's Attorney, Public Defender and Sheriff. Those efforts failed.
Our Pretrial Services have saved the County millions of dollars and caused thousands of individuals to be put on supervised bail release. These efforts cause a reduction of the jail population where we warehouse too many mentally ill and drug dependent people. Furthermore, these efforts cause successful supervision of people on bail bonds who are able to get the mental health and drug treatment they need to straighten their life out.
Failure to properly fund Pretrial Services and diversion programs costs Cook County taxpayers. While I expect to pass a resolution to study this issue during the next year, any real savings will not happen until 2016.
A year ago, I reported our great success at the Cook County Health and Hospital System with the Affordable Care Act and the 1115 Waiver. The 1115 Waiver allowed us to create County Care, a program that allowed us to enroll new Medicaid qualified patients a year early, allowing us to increase revenue by almost $700 million in 2014. These patients were previously being treated at the expense of Cook County taxpayers.
Today, for the first time in the history of our Health System, more than 50% of our patients are covered by some form of insurance. But with these changes come new challenges, as federal eligibility rules and private insurance payment requirements strain our staff resources. I do not believe this budget puts enough resources into recovering every last dollar earned, and therefore we will face a potential deficit in 2016 driven by increasing costs and reduced payments. For example, many of our newly insurance covered patients have very high deductibles. Cook County will not get paid until theses deductibles are met. I have introduced a resolution which will let us develop strategies to help patients meet their deductibles so we can maximize our reimbursement.
While Pretrial Services and the Health System is a priority, the largest financial issue facing us is the need to increase pension payments and plan for changes caused by the anticipated large number of retirements in key jobs at the Health System and in the Sheriff's Office.
On the Pension payment front, even the best scenario projects that we would need an increase in payments of $160 million in 2015. What the final number will be is dependent on what the Illinois Supreme Court does in ruling on the constitutionality of the State pension bill and what changes the Illinois General Assembly passes. I tried to increase our pension payments this year but was met with strong resistance. I was able to get a reserve fund established that may or may not have enough money in it to make an extra payment this year.
Besides the Pension payment issue the other looming problem is that any changes in the pension law will cause significant increases in retirements. It is estimated that up to 1500 employees in the health system and 500 employees in the Sheriff's Office would retire the day any County pension bill passes the General Assembly. There is no plan in this budget to deal with these massive retirements. Any change at the Health System and Sheriff's office staffing puts the County at financial risk for not meeting minimum staffing requirements under Court orders and federal rules.
Finally, I voted "No" on this budget because I respect our County taxpayers and our County employees. I know how hard our taxpayers work and we must protect their pocketbooks, health and safety. Our workers are the best and they deserve a budget that supports their efforts and guarantees them a fair pension.
I voted "No" because someone has to point out the future has many land mines that that can destroy the many good things the County has done in the last four years. We must plan for our economic future and face our battles in pensions, public safety, and healthcare immediately. This budget does not do that.
Commissioner Larry Suffredin's Statement on the Passage of the 2015 Forest Preserve District of Cook County Budget
On November 19, 2014 the Cook County Forest Preserve District Board unanimously passed a $187.7 million budget. This budget only received positive comments through three public hearings with the strongest support coming from various citizens who use the Forests for recreation, restoration and educational activities.
In this Centennial year of the Forest Preserve District this Budget provides: 1. support and encouragement for our volunteers; 2. resources for our staff; 3. restoration opportunities for our land; 4. strategies to acquire additional land; 5.improvements in recreational opportunities; and 6.expansion of intern opportunities.
This Budget also supports the new activities of the Conservation Council appointed and approved at the November 18, 2014 Board meeting. Lead by Chair Wendy Paulson and including the following members: Robert Casteneda, Michael DeSantiago, Peter Ellis, Terry Guen, Sylvia Jenkins, Falona Joy, Linda Mastandrea, Laurel Ross and Mark Templeton. This Council will help us plan for the next 100 years.
The Budget also continues our support of the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Brookfield Zoo. These two jewels anchor our outreach and educational programming. As this year goes on, there is a need to develop plans to help the Garden and the Zoo expand their positive programming.
Dwight Perkins and the Citizens’ Advisory Group he formed over 100 years ago would be proud that this Budget is true to their vision of a Forest Preserve District.
UPDATE on the redevelopment of old Cook County Hospital
Five civic organizations presented their visions for the site at the Chicago Architecture Foundation on Tuesday October 7, 2014
To watch a video of the presentation click here.
There were several suggestions for the hospital: residential lofts, a hotel and a business incubator. These ideas will now be used to assist potential developers when they present their plans for the hospital site.
The county is expected to seek developer proposals this fall.
Meet the new Cook County Health and Hospitals System Board Members:
Ricardo EstradaTo read their biographies click here
Ada Mary Gugenheim
New Hiking-Biking Trail Links Botanic Garden And Forest Preserve
The one-mile link through the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Cook County Forest Preserve District's Turnbull Woods is now open. The $2 million project was funded jointly by the Botanic Garden,the Forest Preserve District and the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Why not bike to the garden? It uses no fuel and saves you from paying for parking.
For a details and a map click here.
The Chicago Botanic Garden Annual Report: Click HERE
In late June, The Chicago Botanic Garden published the Garden's 2013 Annual Report and launched their updated "Keep Growing" ten-year strategic plan website.
Discover what happened at your Garden last year, learn what the future holds, and enjoy a video that sums it all up.
Commissioner Suffredin's Statement on the Passage of the 2014 Forest Preserve District of Cook County Budget
100 years ago, Dwight H. Perkins, an Evanston resident, was a leader in starting the forest preserve movement. His efforts have given us the greatest jewel of open space found anywhere in the United States of America.
The Forest Preserve District of Cook County's budget of $179 million passed on December 2, 2013. The budget gives support to the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Brookfield Zoo and the work of restoration of our 69,000 acres.
The Forest Preserve District of Cook County is home to the most committed volunteers who make our land better and preserve it for future generations. 100 years from now, I hope people will say our efforts saved this precious open space.
Regional Transportation Authority Audit: A Forensic Analysis of Mr. Clifford's Claims Against Metra
To read the Audit, please click HERE
COOK COUNTY MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE MEDIATION PROGRAM REPORT
The June 2013 progress report of the Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program prepared by the Honorable Timothy C. Evans, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and the Honorable Moshe Jacobius, Presiding Judge of the Chancery Division can be accessed here
FEDERAL FUNDING AVAILABLE FOR ELIGBILE FLOOD-RELATED DAMAGE
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that as a result of the April 18, 2013 storm, President Obama has declared all of Cook County (and other Illinois counties), including Evanston, a federal disaster area. Aid has been made available to the State of Illinois and its residents and federal aid has been ordered to supplement state and local recovery efforts.
Individuals and business owners in Evanston affected by the late April flooding and storms are eligible to apply for grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and low-interest loans for uninsured property losses. To apply, you must register at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362. The number for the hearing and speech impaired is 1-800-462-7585. Both numbers will operate from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., seven days a week.
Applicants registering for aid should be prepared to provide basic information about themselves (name, permanent address, phone number), insurance coverage and any other information to help substantiate losses. For more details on the FEMA disaster declaration applicable to Cook County and northeast Illinois, please click here.
STATEMENT OF COOK COUNTY COMMISSIONER LARRY SUFFREDIN ON CONCEALED CARRY
Does Illinois need more guns in public settings to insure the public safety? The answer to this question is no. There are enough guns in the hands of trained law enforcement and security personnel to insure the safety of our citizens in public settings. What Illinois must do is show that its current restrictions are reasonable and do protect the public. Illinois needs to restate its existing law to meet the standards of recent Supreme Court cases. Illinois must not surrender its police powers to those who want unlimited access to firearms.
The debate today is caused by a reading of what Illinois must do under the Seventh Circuit's ruling in Moore, et al v. Lisa Madigan. The decision is still subject to possible Supreme Court Review. It does not require Illinois to do anything specific; but the Seventh Circuit stayed its mandate to allow the General Assembly 180 days "…to craft a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations, consistent with the public safety, and the Second Amendment as interpreted in this opinion, on the carrying of guns in public." The majority opinion clearly outlines how Illinois could more clearly state the reasonableness of its current law and craft changes that would allow for very little change to our current law and would protect the public safety by limiting who and where guns could be allowed.
In addition, the Moore case was decided 2 to I with a strong dissent from Circuit Judge Ann Williams upholding existing Illinois law. Judge Williams stated: "In the absence of clearer indication that the Second Amendment codified a generally recognized right to carry arms in public for self-defense, I would leave this judgment in the hands of the State of Illinois." The Supreme Court is as likely to adopt this standard as that of the majority. Therefore, the General Assembly should stand its ground and defend the existing law and see what the Supreme Court decides.
Unfortunately, there is no political will to wait to see what the Supreme Court will decide. The discussion concerning "concealed carry" that the Illinois General Assembly is conducting demonstrates that expanding concealed carry beyond trained law enforcement and security personnel will only endanger more and not strengthen the overall public safety. A new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll "found one in five Americans knows someone who has been a victim of gun violence in the last three years." The explosion of violence especially in public places will not be contained by giving more people guns.
The General Assembly is reviewing bills and amendments that would allow "concealed carry" to those who have significant training, mental health background checks, insurance and an identifiable need for extra protection. Each of these conditions will put an unmanageable financial strain on a state government that is having difficulty providing basic services to its residents.
In addition, the bills and amendments also highlight places where an individual can't have a concealed carry weapon. These places include: places of worship, hospitals, public transit systems, sports stadiums, public museums, government buildings, courts, mental health facilities, entertainment venues and schools at all levels of education. How will the State enforce these limitations? Will the State provide gun check stations at every place of worship, hospital, transit stop, sports stadium, public museum, government building, court, mental health facility, entertainment venue and school?
Who will pay for these gun check stations?
Illinois has had concealed carry by law enforcement and trained security personnel for years. The debate today should not center on "all individuals" being able to have a concealed weapon but on restating the solid reasons for Illinois continuing to be the only sane state to limit concealed carry.
As a County Commissioner I have no ability to directly shape the concealed carry discussion since it is the General Assembly that must decide. As a County Commissioner I do see the effects of gun violence everyday in our Cook County Hospital System, at our Medical Examiner's Office and in our Court system. Gun violence costs Cook County taxpayers millions of dollars a year. At the County level I have sponsored into law the Blair Holt Assault Weapons Ban and the required reporting of Lost, Stolen or Transferred Firearms to prohibit straw purchases of guns.
An opinion piece by Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin.
Decoding Cook County Property Tax
2010-2011 TIF District Revenue Summary
read summary (Adobe acrobat .pdf)
Cook County Board President Appoints Dr. Stephen J. Cina Chief Medical Examiner
Please find announcement and C.V. below:
read announcement (Adobe acrobat .pdf)
Report of the Justice Advisory Council
read the report (Adobe acrobat .pdf)
Report on the Office of Tax Administrator
Commissioner Suffredin sponsored a resolution requesting close cooperation between offices that oversee property taxes in Cook County. This resolution has done much. Please see the following report for more details.
read report (Adobe acrobat .pdf)
Harms Road & Kenilworth Construction
In Summer 2012 the Cook County Highway Department begins construction on Harms Road from north of Golf Road to south of East Lake Avenue.
read flyer (Adobe acrobat .pdf)
Cook County Completes 2010 Census Redistricting
click here to view map (Adobe Acrobat .pdf)
click here to view Report of the Committee on 2010 Census Redistricting (Adobe Acrobat .pdf)
Unincorporated Cook County Task Force Recommendations
click here to read the Adobe Acrobat .pdf