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Preckwinkle, Evans end budget battle

Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Crain's Chicago Business
by Greg Hinz

uly 18, 2018

Preckwinkle, Evans end budget battle

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Manuel Martinez
Photo by Manuel Martinez

Ain't peace grand?

With a minimum of dissent—at least publicly—Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and Chief Cook County Circuit Court Judge Tim Evans formally ended their war over cuts in the county's budget, with Preckwinkle appearing to get most of what she wanted.

The action came today when a legal challenge to the cuts filed by Evans was formally dismissed, thereby allowing the two to enact the terms of a deal whose general terms have been known for a while but had not yet been finalized.

The battle began when Preckwinkle lost a political battle and agreed to the repeal of her controversial penny-an-ounce tax on sweetened beverages. The action poked a $200 million hole in her budget, and she responded by ordering budget cuts throughout county government, including a $41 million reduction in Evans' budget.

Evans objected, both to the cuts in general on grounds that he runs an independent agency and cannot be ordered what and where to cut.

Under the now-final deal, Preckwinkle agreed to restore $8 million in funding this year and to add an additional $2.5 million in capital funds for next year. The rest will come in cuts, amounting to 5.16 percent, according to Preckwinkle.

Included are the closure of a juvenile detention facility that will result in 22 layoffs, and the shift of some health care services for juveniles from Evans' budget to that of the county's health system. In addition, branch courts at Belmont and Western and Wentworth and 51st will be closed and the National Center for State Courts will conduct a study on court utilization here.

Potentially 150 or more layoffs will be needed as part of the deal, but Evans has talked about imposing unpaid furlough days on his staff instead. According to Preckwinkle's spokesman, "It's his call. We can appropriate but it's up to him as to how he spends it."

Evans now is out with a statement, saying he's "pleased" with the settlement.

"This dispute was about the necessary and reasonable funding that is statutorily required for the court system. But this litigation has also established that the county board has no authority to lay off court employees," he added. "The county decides the funding level for the court, and the court is best suited to decide how those funds are allocated. Moving forward, that is an important precedent. As we head into more uncertain financial times, the county board has more tough decisions ahead. I hope that the president and commissioners will consider all of the sacrifices the court has made and the disproportionate share of the cuts that the court was asked to take in 2018."

Earlier:

Preckwinkle drops bid for damages in pop tax case

Preckwinkle blasts Emanuel on volatile carjacking issue

Dart, Preckwinkle are in toxic clash over Teamster talks



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