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More unpaid furlough days for Cook County workers

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle predicts unpaid days off will save county $30 millithis year.   | Richard

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle predicts unpaid days off will save the county $30 million this year. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 7, 2011 3:19PM

Cook County’s financial crisis isn’t over, and more unpaid furlough days off are in store “for the foreseeable future” for county workers, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says.

Elected last year, Preckwinkle worked with the rest of the Cook County Board to erase what she pegged as a $487 million budget deficit.

But the county still will face a projected deficit of $250 million to $300 million in 2012, Preckwinkle said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, blaming falling revenues in the county health-care system and a loss of revenue tied to the partial rollback next year of the county’s portion of the sales tax.

Which will mean the bulk of Cook County government’s workforce will have to take another 10 days off without pay next year as they have had to do this year, Preckwinkle said, herself included.

She said those required unpaid days off will extend beyond next year, continuing “for the foreseeable future. How long have they had them at the city?”

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley pushed through furlough days starting in 2007 to keep the city in the black. Now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is promising to get rid of furlough days, describing them as morale-busters that don’t save as much money as the city expected. He’s asked labor unions that represent city employees to come up with another way of cutting costs.

Preckwinkle’s administration predicts unpaid days off for most of the county’s 24,000 employees will save the county $30 million this year. The county also laid off workers, refinanced debt and used $24 million in tax-increment finance money to deal with the red ink.

Preckwinkle said she’s looking for long-term savings through a “performance management” system that includes regular reviews of every county agency.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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