No increase to taxes or fees to close Cook County budget gap
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has no plans to add or increase taxes and fees to close an anticipated $82 million gap in the county's upcoming 2019 budget.
That's according to the county's top finance officials who released the 2019 fiscal year forecast Monday.
"We have our work cut out for us," Preckwinkle said. "I anticipate we will have a challenging year."
However, budget officials noted the county is expected to end 2018 with a $600,000 surplus.
They acknowledged this is the smallest gap forecast by the county at this point in budget planning since 2011.
Personnel costs are the largest driver of expense growth, according to the forecast. Despite that, county officials said they expect the board won't increase the property tax levy, which has remained level for more than two decades.
However, county Chief Financial Officer Ammar Rizki said because the county owes less going into 2019, about $19.5 million in property taxes will be available for general operating expenses. The forecast also anticipates an additional $36.9 million from increased sales tax revenue. Rizki said inflationary growth is driving the sales tax revenue.
Budget Director Tanya Anthony said the county is expecting less revenue from the interest on delinquent property tax bills "because taxpayers are paying on time."
Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas has grown the county's property tax payment marketing campaign in recent years. The county is forecasting revenue from the treasurer's office to be down $31 million from 2018.
About $52 million of the $82 million expected shortfall is from the county's general fund. The remainder is in the county's health and hospital fund, county officials said.
In the past, Anthony said, the county has closed some of the budget gap by eliminating positions and programs, resulting in continued savings. She expects more of the same next year.
Preckwinkle is expected to release her full 2019 budget recommendation in October, and the board will vote on it some time in November.