Cook County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee - Departmental Budget Hearings
November 1, 2017
Bureau of Administration - including
Bureau of Technology
Commissioners absent for all or most of the meetings: Butler, Deer, Silvestri
Commissioners present: Morrison, Boykin, Arroyo, Suffredin, Garcia, Moody, Daley, Schneider, Goslin, Sims, Fritchey, Gainer, Moore, Tobolski
During this hearing day, Commissioners were very attuned to making cuts in the Budget to account for the $200 million shortfall. Much discussion on salaries, CPI and step increases, benefits, and negotiations with unions in general. No mention of tax increases was made.
Bureau of Administration: This bureau met the 10% reduction requested in letter sent to all departments and elected officials. This was done through the following:
The Medical Examiner decreased staff 10%, (down to 115 FTEs) but the caseload has increased by 12%. This is mainly due to gun deaths and opioid overdoses (1/3 of all cases). This office has outsourced toxicology testing, which saved money ($1.2 million), and will sell the equipment previously used for $600,000. Each autopsy costs an average of $1,900. Gunshot deaths take longer to autopsy and thus cost a lot more than the average listed. There was an increase of $226,000 in salaries for this department.
The Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s budget is 90% in grant funds, particularly from FEMA and 9% from the Cook County operating budget ($1.88 million). This is a reduction from 2017 budget. There are 75 FTE; of these 23 are vacant yet funded. Several Commissioners expressed concern that several important positions were not filled. These are currently going through the hiring system. The current Executive Director (Barnes) has only been on the job 3 weeks and wants to re-evaluate what this department is doing and should be doing. This department has recently been moved under the President’s Office from the Sheriff’s Dept. Comm. Gainer is concerned about duplication of administrative functions (financial controls, communications, etc) that could be consolidated under one office. Director of the Bureau will work on getting duplication out of these departments.
Commissioner Fritchey commented that even though all departments (through Performance Management) have a metric on zero-based budgeting, they are not really doing this method. Rather, they begin from the previous year’s budget and add or subtract from there. No move to change this any time soon.
Dept. of Transportation and Highways has no reduction in staff for the 2018 budget (141.5 FTE). There was discussion on inefficiency and high cost ($20 per mile) of snow removal due to a network of disjointed roads throughout the county (570 total miles). At the State level, an amendment to constitution was passed recently that required all Motor Fuel taxes to be spent on transportation-related projects. There is still some leeway in this such as spending on “safety.”
Bureau of Human Resources (HR) has 6 main program areas, mostly for offices under the President and some hiring services (Taleo) for other offices and elected officials. This office does the union contract bargaining/negotiation for all offices in the County. The budget was stated as being “flat” for 2018 with 44 FTE employees. This department is in the process of aligning job classifications to actual duties. Some reductions in costs are due to lowered drug test costs, reduced grievance arbitration, and elimination of the medical division. They are also looking into the consolidation of other elected officials’ HR departments with this main HR Bureau. A letter was sent to all elected official requesting information about their HR departments. This information is expected shortly.
Bureau of Technology has a 2018 budget that was $2 million less than 2017 even before the requested 10% reduction. The Director (Rollinson) described her department’s goal as “a broker of services rather than a provider of services.” This involves standardization throughout the County, which is a work in progress. Some departments do not want consolidation of IT as they feel it restricts their individual needs.
Observer - Karin Hribar
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