What does a Cook County Commissioner Do?

The Cook County Board functions a lot like your local alderman in Chicago’s City Council.  The Cook County Board of Commissioners is a legislative body made up of 17 commissioners who are elected by district. The districts are well defined and include approximately 300,000 residents. Many of the districts overlap with the City of Chicago and suburban areas. Some districts include unincorporated Cook County.  Each Commissioner serves a 4 year term that is renewable without term limits. The Board of Commissioners has a president elected by the entire county.  The current Board President is Toni Preckwinkle.

The County Board meetings are bi-monthly and smaller committee meetings happen more frequently. Each Commissioner serves on one of the eighteen standing committees and thirteen sub committees of the County Board. Additionally, they also serve as Commissioners of the Forest Preserve District, exercising jurisdiction over the forest preserve areas of the County, including Brookfield Zoo, Dan Ryan Woods, and the Chicago Botanic Gardens.

Each fiscal year, the Board adopts an Annual Appropriation Bill, or budget, in which the board appropriates funds for the operations of the County. Some of those operations include the cook county circuit court, public health services, forest preserve, public safety, and maintenance of county highways. After the appropriations are decided, the County Board limited power to decide how the money is spent by the agency. The County Board does not set policy of guidelines for funds or programs. However, the oversight of each county office's budgeted dollars is done through its Finance Committee where all county proposed contracts and expenditures over $10,000 are discussed and considered for the Board's approval. The County Board has the authority to levy or impose taxes to generate more revenue to allocate to county agencies and the Cook County Pension Fund.