CHICAGO — Cook County’s new president, Toni Preckwinkle, has tapped a former Chicago comptroller as her new chief financial officer.
Tariq Malhance’s appointment comes two weeks before the new administration is set to unveil a $3 billion fiscal 2011 budget that tackles a record $487 million deficit.
At the press conference introducing Malhance, Preckwinkle warned that all county departments — several of which are headed by separately elected leaders — must cut their budgets by 21%.
Preckwinkle will introduce her budget Feb. 1.
The board must approve a final spending plan by Feb. 28.
Malhance has worked in public finance for 25 years. He was Chicago comptroller from 2002 to 2005 before taking a position as senior vice president of private equity at Unicorn Investment Bank.
Malhance echoed Preckwinkle’s vow to repeal an unpopular sales tax over the next two years despite Cook’s fiscal challenges.
“We will not allow the county to falter under the pressure of major budgetary shortfalls being experienced by many counties and states around the country,” he said at the press conference.
The Cook County Board was scheduled to vote on Malhance’s appointment Wednesday.
“Mr. Malhance’s various roles in city government, as well as his recent private-sector experience, make him exceptionally qualified to lead the county’s financial operation in this challenging economic environment,” Preckwinkle said in a memo to the board.
The administration will also hire a deputy CFO, a position that has been vacant for several years, according to officials.
Cook is the nation’s second-largest county. It has $3.8 billion of outstanding debt.
All three major credit-rating agencies rate Cook County double-A with a stable outlook.
In addition to hiring a new CFO, the administration said it plans to meet with rating agencies shortly after releasing its proposed budget.
It also plans to issue a new request for proposals to assemble a finance team to help it restructure a chunk of its outstanding debt to achieve savings.
Cook’s fiscal 2011 revenue totaled $3.31 billion and expenses total $3.8 billion, leaving a structural gap of nearly $500 million.
Some of that money — about $200 million — is considered one-time expenses, officials said. More than 80% of the county’s finances are personnel costs.