CHICAGO — The new administration running Cook County, Ill., continued to fill out its top financial team last week with the appointment of a new budget director and a new deputy director of finance.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle tapped Chicago budget director Andrea Gibson as the county’s new budget chief.
Preckwinkle also promoted Takashi Reinbold to the position of deputy finance director from budget director. Reinbold will serve under chief financial officer Tariq Malhance, who joined the Cook County government team in January.
The new team will oversee finances at the nation’s second-largest county and manage a roughly $3 billion budget that last year suffered from a record $487 million deficit.
The administration is expected to continue to face challenges over the next two years as it implements a promised roll-back of an unpopular 1% sales tax increase. The rollback is projected to mean the loss of $54 million next year and $98.2 million in 2013, according to Malhance.
The appointments come as the county prepares to enter the market in June or July with up to $300 million of refunding bonds to generate debt-service savings over the next two years.
Cook is still assembling the finance team for the deal, Malhance said in an interview Tuesday at The Bond Buyer’s Midwest Public Finance Conference here.
The county also plans to open a $200 million line of credit, and is considering tapping the money to pay off lawsuits, Malhance said.
One of Preckwinkle’s first moves when she took the county’s helm last year was to declare a moratorium on most new capital projects or equipment purchases.
The administration is considering financing some projects with proceeds left over from new-money bond issues the county sold under former President Todd Stroger, Malhance said Tuesday.
“There’s enough of the proceeds from the 2009 and 2010 bonds to keep us possibly through 2012,” he said. Malhance said he has told Gibson he wants a preliminary 2012 budget completed by Aug. 1.
Cook County’s fiscal year begins Dec. 1, but historically the board has not approved a final budget until the end of February. Preckwinkle has said one of her goals is to move up the budget process so the county has a final spending plan in place by the start of the fiscal year.
On the pension side, Cook’s retirement fund is 66% funded. “We feel pretty good about that when compared to other governments,” Malhance said.
The county owes $192 million in annual pension payments. Of that, $134 million comes from property tax revenue.
Malhance said the administration will begin to address its unfunded pension liability within the next couple years.
“We haven’t given thought to issuing pension obligation bonds yet,” he said.
Cook County closed its 2011 $487 million deficit with a series of measures. Personnel changes, including furlough days and layoffs, saved $197 million, and an upcoming debt restructuring is expected to save another $136 million in part by pushing off debt payments due in 2011.
The county expects to tap $84 million from a series of revenue sources and another $41 million from a special revenue fund, according to Malhance.