The Cook County Board of Commissioners last week approved a $930 million 2009 spending plan for the county’s health and hospital bureau, the first budget under a new a new independent board that took over the fiscally troubled health system earlier this year.

Also last week, county board President Todd Stroger ousted his budget director. The action comes a few weeks before the full 2009 county budget is to be unveiled.

County commissioners approved — without changes — the $930 million spending plan crafted by the independent Health and Hospitals System Board of Directors. The budget increases spending by about $77 million from last year. The county will hire 400 new employees as part of the plan.

Earlier this year the county board agreed to shift control of the massive health care system to an independent board composed after several state leaders, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., urged the move in an effort to improve the system.

The move gave the board of directors near-total control of the system’s clinical and financial decisions, though county board approval is still required on the budget. The health system accounts for about a third of Cook County’s total annual spending. Some commissioners said the board would consider separating the two by asking Illinois to give the health system its own taxing authority.

Stroger last week also demoted county budget director Jarese Wilson to the position of deputy director of information technology, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times. The report said Wilson had made mistakes in crafting the 2009 and 2008 budgets and that the move is part of a larger, pending reorganization within the administration.

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