Cook County Estimates $267.5 Million Budget Shortfall for 2013

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According to WMAQ, the government of Cook County is estimated to have a budget shortfall of close to $267.5 million for 2013. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced the budget report this past Wednesday at a news conference and despite the daunting number, the shortfall has actually decreased from the 2011 and 2012 budget holes.

Here are some facts about the budget report just announced, as well as ways the county is hoping to close the gap:

* There are still revenue problems that the county is set to face, including the loss of $87.8 million in sales taxes due to the elimination of a sales tax increase originally implemented by former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, noted the Chicago Tribune.

* One of the main ways the county is hoping to tackle the deficit is by not filling vacant seats that have resulted from individuals retiring unless certain conditions, like the position reduces overtime or increases revenue, apply.

* Reuters reported that the county is projecting $2.25 billion in expenditures but only $1.98 billion in general fund revenue.

* In addition to implementing a hiring freeze for some jobs, the county is also taking the steps to reduce the costs related to elections.

* Other decreases in revenue sources include the decline in county tobacco and gasoline taxes, as well as a loss of revenue from court filings.

* The Daily Herald added that Preckwinkle said that $152 million of the deficit is from patients not paying their bills with the county's hospital system, especially since a majority of patients do not have insurance to cover the costs of their medical treatment.

* Cook County is expecting to save about $219 million by the beginning of December through changes to their everyday operations and structure.

* Future pension reforms are also expected to have a positive financial impact and the county is expecting to spend close to $480 million solely on pension expenses and other associated health benefits.

* At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold President Barack Obama's national health care initiative could also have a positive impacts on the county's health care expenses and thus help close the budget gap.

* The budget shortfall for fiscal year 2011 was nearly $500 million and the current fiscal year's shortfall was approximately $315 million.

* Of the budget report, Preckwinkle commented, "This preliminary budget forecast is evidence we are making progress, but more work needs to be done to achieve the fiscal strength that I want on behalf of County taxpayers."

Rachel Bogart provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. Currently pursuing her master's in environmental science, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.

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