Cook County commissioners spent considerable time going over the proposed budget and levy for next year at Tuesday’s meeting. Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers told them the 4.98 percent levy increase over 2010 is mostly a recovery of money lost to unallotments. Commissioner Bob Fenwick.
Fenwick: Most of the levy, as was pointed out by Braidy Powers yesterday, is going to replace lost money by the state. I think the inevitability is we will probably be losing some money from the state as 2011 unfolds.
The levy is the maximum allowed by law and 93 percent of the $287,799 levy is to recoup state aid cuts. An examination of increased expenses for 2011 from county departments bears that out with expenses at about 6-1/2 percent lower than last year.
Fenwick: A key thing that the county has done I think a pretty good job with over the past years, and I’d go back even further than even my tenure, is to keep expenses in check. If you look at the part of the budget process where it says expenditures, what are each of these departments actually spending and how they’ve kept that in line, overall, the county has done a very good job in light of the fact that their needs, the mandates from the state, have increased over the years and the money from the state has decreased over the years. To have the county, Cook County being included in all the counties that are able to continue to provide those services and not see their expenditures increase dramatically is a very positive thing.
Still taxpayers will see increases on their statements next year, but Fenwick says there are reasons beyond the county’s budget.
Fenwick: I know that when I get my property tax statement and look at the bottom, I’m going to say, “wow.” But, we are in an unfolding time in Cook County where services for elders and for what needs to be at the school with decreasing monies coming in there are really kind of hitting us now. And, we are going to have to wade our way through this and make sure we can do it well.
Although the budget as presented is preliminary, and commissioners have until their December 21 meeting to make changes in it, Fenwick isn’t expecting that to happen.
Fenwick: My gut reaction to what we heard from the highway department and other departments in the past is that we’re pretty well set on where we need to go for next year. We did have the opportunity to increase the levy for the EDA if we wanted to. I don’t think we’re going to do that; that’s my gut reaction to the discussions of yesterday. So, I think all-in-all we’ll probably remain about the same.