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
Cook County Board of Commissioners Meeting - June 28, 2017
Significant Topics Discussed:
After a series of Chicago Tribune articles calling out the Cook County Assessor’s office for failure to provide assessment fairness between high and low valued properties, several Commissioners called for Cook County Assessor Barrios to attend a Finance Committee hearing made up of all board members to explain, defend, and take questions on the current process. One commissioner said he wanted the hearing held in July.
Nancy Marcus, Cook County League of Women Voters Co-President, testified that it is past time for the Commissioners to use the County’s Performance Standards in evaluating the elected offices, and the Assessor's office should be focused on doing accurate assessments in the first instance, and not opening up more avenues to contest property appraisals.
Issues Referred to Committee:
Other Items of Interest:
Observer: Diane Edmundson Meeting Length: 90 minutes
Cook County Board and Committee Meetings - July 13, 2016
Issue of Concern:
Twelve Committee Meetings beginning at 8:15 am were scheduled today prior to the 11am Board Meeting. Total time spent meeting was 7 hours, 15 minutes - 2 meetings held after that time in Executive Session and not open to the public. Comm. Suffredin decided to reschedule the Legislation & Intergovernmental Relations Committee hearing on the impact of the Family Medical Leave Act on staffing and the County budget when it became apparent that the meeting scheduled for 1pm would not begin until closer to 5pm, and those waiting to testify would probably not still be available.
Putting this issue into some context:
For the past 5 years, the League has been talking and writing letters to the Commissioners and President recommending that:
Perhaps as a result of what occurred at this meeting, the Commissioners may now be ready to act on the League’s recommendations. The July 13 meeting schedule was totally unrealistic and was aggravated by the fact that there were several times when there was an insufficient number of Commissioners present to establish a quorum. While some Committees still had to meet, the Board Meeting was begun 30 minutes late in order to deal with the Consent Agenda (when people are honored) and take public testimony. An hour was spent on the Consent Agenda, which was not unusual. Public testimony took 45 minutes (see below). The Board Meeting was then recessed in order to allow the remaining Committee meetings to be held, prior to resuming the Board meeting at 3:00, which ended at 3:30.
As a result, the Finance Committee did not begin taking public testimony until 2 pm, four (4) hours after the scheduled time. Only a handful of Commissioners were present when League Co-President Karin Hribar began to speak regarding the proposed amendment to Performance Based Management and Budgeting (see the first item below under “Actions Taken”). Ms. Hribar started by saying how disappointed she was that more Commissioners were not present to hear what the League had to say after having to wait so long to speak.
After her testimony, Commissioner Suffredin vowed that the Rules Committee, which he chairs, would find a solution to how to deal with the Consent Agenda so people can be honored without delaying the business of the Board. Commissioner Silvestri also urged that Committees, other than Committees of the Whole, be scheduled on a day prior to the Board meeting. Commissioners Daley, Goslin, and Sims expressed support for these changes.
Any reforms will be reported in future Eyewitness Reports.
Significant Actions Taken:
1. Approval of an ordinance amendment on Performance Based Management & Budgeting.
3. Appointments to the Cook County Health & Hospitals System (HHS) Independent Board:
(Items 16-4179, 4180, 4181, 4182, and 4178)
5. Received for filing:
Significant Items Referred to Committee:
Public Testimony at Board Meeting:
There were 15 speakers all urging that the Board take up a previously introduced proposed ordinance called the Responsible Business Act. Among other things, this ordinance would require companies to pay the County an amount for each employee not being paid a “living wage” as defined in the ordinance. The sponsor of the ordinance, Commissioner Steele urged its supporters to be respectful of the Commissioners with whom they were meeting, and said that he was working to get sufficient votes as well as to obtain a State law, which was preferable to a local County law.
Observer - Priscilla Mims
Cook County Board of Commissioners Meeting - June 29, 2016
Significant Decisions Made:
The Board voted (10 to 5) to place a Referendum on the November ballot asking voters to decide whether the Office of Recorder of Deeds should be combined with the Office of County Clerk. Proponents of the Bill, sponsored by Commissioner John Fritchey, said now begins the period, before the election, when we must educate the public on the necessity of combining the offices. Fritchey said eight of the largest counties in the United States have combined the offices of the Recorder of Deeds with the County Clerk for financial savings. (Agenda Item 15-6190)
Gun Violence resolutions passed by the Board:
A proposed ordinance amendment on Performance Based Management was referred to the Finance Committee. (Agenda Item 16-3977)
Observer - Eleanor Prince
Individual authors are credited at the end of each post.