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Cook County Budget: Toni Preckwinkle Projects $267.5 Million Deficit, Hiring Freeze

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Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle speaks at a news conference at the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle speaks at a news conference at the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Cook County will need to contend with a projected $267.5 million shortfall in its next budget, Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Wednesday.

The projected deficit is less than the preliminary shortfalls of both preceding fiscal years, but still comes up short due to "significant" revenue declines, such as the planned .25 percent rollback of the state's sales tax hike and the reduction in patient billing fees from the county healthcare system.

The sales tax rollback will cost the county some $87.8 million next year, while the healthcare shortage will cost about $150 million, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Preckwinkle said in a statement that the forecast was "evidence we are making progress, but more work needs to be done to achieve the fiscal strength that I want on behalf of County taxpayers."

Going forward with the county's 2013 budget, Preckwinkle admitted Wednesday that "everything’s on the table," the Chicago Sun-Times reports. A limited hiring freeze will be observed through the end of the current fiscal year and costs will also be cut by reducing the number of county voting precincts.

Employee furlough days for county employees may lie ahead, according to the Sun-Times.

"There will be tough choices made in the next several months to balance the budget that will be hard for many people, including myself, but this is the economic reality we face today," Preckwinkle said.

The county's 2012 budget included 775 county employee layoffs and higher sin and luxury taxes on products like alcohol and cigarettes among the tax and fee increases outlined in the plan.

WATCH Preckwinkle discuss the county budget forecast Wednesday:

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