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Preckwinkle to Dart: Cut More

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 28, 2011 1:30PM

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle seems headed for a showdown with Sheriff Tom Dart over proposed cuts to his department's budget. If Dart holds the line with his current proposed cuts, it could become the first confrontation in Preckwinkle's administration.

Dart contends that he's targeted $43 million in cuts he can make without being detrimental to how the Sheriff's Department staffs Cook County Jail and county courthouses, and provide police services to the county. Preckwinkle believes the cuts can go deeper, aiming for $70 million less in spending, but didn't specify what she would get rid of during a meeting with the Tribune's Editorial Board.

But Preckwinkle hinted that the cuts she would make wouldn't hurt Dart's ability to provide police services. She seems to be looking for answers to lower the numbers of Sheriff's employees that take time off under the federal Family & Medical Leave Act, a problem that Dart brought to Preckwinkle's attention. 1 out of every 5 employees is on family or medical leave at any given time of day; that number goes to 1 in 4 at Cook County Jail. When that happens, more employees are brought in to make up for the loss and the county continues to pay for the pension and health insurance costs of those who take time off.

Preckwinkle said too many sheriff's employees are on workman's compensation or long-term disability. She also told the Tribune's Editorial Board that she's open to giving Dart more money by raising court-service fees and collecting a bigger share of foreclosure sales fees.