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Statement of Cook County upon release of 2016 budget: The “balanced budget” is the result of months of hard work to close an initial gap; “reasonable and responsible,” says President Preckwinkle.

Change in Net Position in actual financial statements for 2016: Negative $819 million.

By: Mark Glennon*

It’s an old story rarely told. Politicians brag about “balanced budgets. The press obsesses over budgets and budget addresses. Reality ends up disproving most of it, but isn’t reported.

Something closer to reality comes after the close of each fiscal year in the form of a CAFR, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report — actual financial statements. They, too, have their gimmicks but are much more realistic than budgets.

In government financial statements, “change in net position” is the bottom line on results, basically like net income” on private sector statements.

That’s where the $819 million dollar loss is shown in the CAFR just released for Cook County’s 2016 fiscal year.

And get a load of the ten-year history of change in net position for Cook Country, from page 222:

2007: -$325 million; 2008, –252 $million; 2009, -$517 million; 2010, -$574 million; 2011 million, -$548 million; 2012, -$633 million; 2013, -$799 million; 2014, – 646 -$million; 2015, –$781 million; 2016, -$819 million.

Those are annual changes. The accumulated net position is -$15.3 billion.


*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints. Opinions expressed are his own.

Updated to clarify that the ten-year numbers are annual changes only and to add the current net position.

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Is that loss each year or moving position? So is that 6 billion lost over 10 years?


The change in net position is far less than the change in pension position for the same period.

The net pension liability (unfunded liability) increased $2,442,478,329 (19%), from $12,877,563,086 on November 30, 2015 to $15,320,041,415 on November 30, 2016.

The net OPEB obligation increased $155,436,413 (15%), from $1,010,795,474 to $1,166,231,887.

Combined net pension liability (unfunded liability) and OPEB obligation increased $2,597,914,742.

Which is an increase in those debt obligations of about $2.6 billion dollars, for one year.

How many years of soda taxes does it take to generate $2.6 billion dollars?


The words “balanced budget” in Illinois is too often misleading language for “unbalanced budget.”

Seems to me the intent is to deceive.