Cook County government is broken down into agencies, which operate under the President and other separately elected officials. These agencies are then further broken down into departments for budgeting purposes. The County prepares budgets for over a hundred departments, with each department operating under the supervision of a control officer.
During the budget preparation, each control officer makes their preliminary request to the President of the Cook County Board for the budget under their supervision. This request is based on the expenditures they have calculated for that fiscal year. Cook County’s fiscal year begins on December 1, and concludes on November 30. These expenditures include, but are not limited to: all personal and contractual services, supplies and materials, operations and maintenance, and capital equipment and improvements expenditures. The Budget Department then compiles all of the requests for an estimate of total expenditures forecasted for the fiscal year.
The County Comptroller is tasked with estimating all revenues anticipated for the fiscal year. The total revenue is the amount collected from property taxes, sales taxes, state and federal government matching dollars, grants, fines, fees for services, interest on investments, sale or lease of land and property and other reimbursements.
Based on the comparison between total expenditures and total revenues, the President makes an Executive Budget Recommendation that balances both expenditures and revenues. This recommendation is then presented to the Board of Commissioners for budget hearings, amendment proposals and final approval. The final approved budget is known as the Annual Appropriation Bill.
County finances are organized by funds for accounting purposes. Three basic funds make up the General Fund: Corporate, Public Safety and Health. The money not spent at the end of the fiscal year in these three basic funds is reabsorbed into the General Fund and considered for use in any of the three basic funds the next fiscal year.
In addition to the General Fund, the County uses a Special Purpose or Dedicated Fund. Revenue deposited in these funds is earmarked for a specific purpose. Funds not spent at the end of the fiscal year can only be reabsorbed into the same Special Purpose Fund for use in the next fiscal year.
The County Comptroller maintains a record of all budgetary appropriations, expenditures, encumbrances and revenues made or received during the current year. The Comptroller reports these records each month to the Board of Commissioners through the Appropriation Trial Balance. At the end of the current fiscal year, an audit for the year will be conducted and a report will be issued with the final expenditures for each department.
Capital Improvements are usually tied to bonds let for several years (i.e. 3 yrs.) that are tied to multiple projects with varying timelines. Therefore, the money associated with them is not spent uniformly. The money spent in 2011 can be from bonds let in previous years.