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Cook County Sheriff Braces For Layoffs

(CBS) -- The Cook County Sheriff's Office says it will be hit hard if the county's sweetened drink tax is struck down, or even delayed by a few months.

Sheriff Tom Dart was informed by County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's office that his law-enforcement and jail agency would lose 925 employees.

Dart's policy chief, Cara Smith, said Dart knew the office would feel an impact because it comprises more than 40 percent of the county's budget. But he wasn't ready for that scale.

Dart and top lieutenants have gone line-by-line and has sought "creative" ways to reduce the size of the list. It hopes to present its alternative to Preckwinkle by late Friday.

Complicating the job are federal consent decrees. Smith says the county jail was just released from 40-plus years of federal oversight, based on having sufficient staffing. She said reduction in staff could bring with it renewed federal court action and oversight.

A hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday on the county's request to remove the temporary restraining order that is preventing imposition of the penny-an-ounce tax, which was supposed to occur at the beginning of the month.

The county has said it expects to lose $17 million in revenue for each month that imposition of the tax is delayed. The county has said repeatedly that it needs the money now and that the new revenue is already spent.  It expects to lay off a total of 2,600 county employees if the tax is not imposed by December.


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