CHICAGO -- Plans for a new Cook County, Ill., hospital slated to be financed by general obligation bonds were included in a $2.08 billion fiscal 1993 budget announced yesterday by the county.
The proposed hospital, which would replace an 80-year-old facility on Chicago's West Side, is projected the cost" over $100 million," according to Woods Bowman, the county's chief financial officer.
Preparatory work for the new hospital will be funded by a $5 million appropriation in the proposed budget, which was unveiled by Richard Phelan, president of the county board. Those plans will enable the county to apply for a state "certificate of need," which would authorize construction of the facility to replace existing Cook County Hospital, Phelan said.
"To not move forward on this project would be the height of folly," Phelan said. "The $25 million which we would otherwise spend every year on upkeep and reform of the old structure coupled with just $10 million in increased operating efficiencies would easily pay the annual debt service for a new hospital."
The county has not set a timetable for construction, Bowman said, saying that it would be built "as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the budget for fiscal 1993, which begins Dec. 1, also includes $35 million for anticipated debt service payments on $250 million of GO bonds that are expected to be issued next year.
Bowman said that $200 million of the bonds would be issued as the third phase of the county's $958 million, four-year capital improvement program. The other $50 million of short-term bonds would be issued for equipment purchases.
Meanwhile, Phelan's proposed budget is balanced with the help of across-the-board cuts that offset lagging revenues and a $246 million increase in anticipated spending for health care and criminal justice. He added that property taxes would not be increased.
The cuts include a 2.5% decrease in department budgets. Five percent of the budgets will be cut so that each department will have extra funds at the end of the fiscal year.
Bowman said the 5% cuts were needed to comply with rating agency requests that the funds bet set aside to ensure the county's financial stability.
Phelan added that an anticipated $50 million property tax abatement for the current year would have to be abandoned because Gov. Jim Edgar vetoed a use tax on big-ticket items purchased by Cook County residents in the metropolitan area. The use tax would have raised $60 million in annual revenues.
"We counted on those funds in our sales tax revenue projections," Phelan said. "We cannot abate what we did not receive."
However, Phelan added he would seek an override of the governor's veto when the General Assembly convenes next month.
Phelan said the county's financial woes were further exacerbated by the termination of state-sponsored general assistance medical care to 50,000 Cook County residents.
In September, the county sold approximately $209 million of GO bonds in the second phase of the county's debt plan for correctional and health-care services. The first phase of about $200 million of GO bonds was sold in April.
The county's debt is rated A-plus by Standard & Poor's Corp. and Fitch Investors Service Inc. Moody's Investors Service rates the debt A1.