June 11, 2014
Cook County is a home rule government with three primary responsibilities: collecting tax and fee revenue, protecting public health through the administration of a public health and hospital system and ensuring public safety and justice through the operation of a jail and court system. The main divisions of the public safety system in Cook County include the Chief Judge, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Public Defender, Sheriff, State’s Attorney, Public Administrator, Department of Facilities Management and Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. In terms of full-time equivalent positions (FTEs), the Sheriff’s Office and the Chief Judge employ the majority of Cook County public safety employees with 6,769.6 FTEs and 3,075.6 FTEs respectively in FY2014.
In Cook County in FY2014, two-thirds of the General Fund expenditures were public safety appropriations (the remaining one-third were designated Corporate). Public Safety appropriations represent approximately $1.2 billion and over 34% of the total Cook County FY2014 budget. While the rest of the General Fund increased less than the rate of inflation, public safety appropriations increased by $43.5 million, or 3.3%, in FY2014.
In FY2014 appropriations for the Chief Judge and Sheriff increased by $14.2 million, or 8.0%, and $18.9 million, or 4.3%, respectively, to fund the costs associated with “Raise the Age” legislation. The legislation requires 17 year-olds charged with felony offenses to be tried in the juvenile court system rather than in the adult court system. Seventeen year-olds must now also be housed at the County’s Juvenile Temporary Detention Center rather than at the County Jail. The Sheriff’s budget also increased to treat detainees at the County Jail who have been diagnosed with mental illness, as mandated by the Consent Decree from the federal Department of Justice. In addition, in FY2014 64 additional positions were added at a cost of $2.1 million in order to fully staff the facilities under the Department of Corrections. Program costs under the Sheriff also increased by $1.6 million at the Department of Corrections, in part to fund programs for homeless persons who have been ordered by judges to electronic monitoring. To support improvements in case management though staffing and technology, the State’s Attorney’s budget increased by $2.6 million in FY2014. The Clerk of the Circuit Court also saw a budget increase of $1.1 million in one-time funding for the relocation of the Circuit Court’s document warehouse.
Historical Trends in Cook County Public Safety Spending
Since at least FY2007, public safety spending in Cook County has been on the rise, with the exception of a 3.5% drop in FY2012. From FY2007 to FY2011, public safety spending rose by 16%. If actual public safety expenditures by the end of FY2014 on November 30th match or are greater than budgeted, public safety spending will have risen by at least 18% over the last five fiscal years. The following chart shows an eight year trend in Cook County’s Public Safety Appropriations for All Funds, from FY2007 to FY2014.
While public safety expenditures in terms of dollars have been on the rise, public safety spending in terms of percentage of the total Cook County budget is slated to decrease to 34% in FY2014, from a five-year high of 39.4% in FY2012. For this decrease in percentage of total budget to be borne out, total actual expenditures for FY2013 and FY2014 will need to come in at or below the appropriated amount. The following table shows a five-year trend in Cook County’s Public Safety All Funds Appropriations, from FY2010 to FY2014.
 Cook County FY2014 Executive Budget Recommendation, Proposed Expenditures, pp. 85-86
 See Public Act 98-0061. Also see Civic Federation blog, "Impact of 'Raise the Age' Legislation on Cook County's Juvenile Temporary Detention Center"
 Information provided by the Cook County Department of Budget and Management Services, October 19, 2013
 Cook County FY2014 Executive Budget Recommendation, Resident’s Guide, p. 7
 Cook County FY2014 Executive Budget Recommendation, Resident’s Guide, p. 6