CHICAGO (WBBM) — In the wake of mandated budget cuts, cash-strapped Cook County government offices now have already spent half of their overtime budget in the first quarter of this year.

WBBM’s Mike Krauser reports that the county has a little over $45 million budgeted for the year. Commissioner Bridgett Gainer says it’s already burned through $22 million.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser Reports

“This is a red flag,” Gainer said. “Is it the canary in the coal mine? We need to be looking at what we’re spending, and we need to do it early enough in the year to change the behavior, if we have to.”

In a major cost-cutting initiative instituted by Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County departments had to make cuts of 16 percent to their budgets for this year.

Gainer is trying to determine if those cuts have forced existing employees to pick up the slack by working overtime.

“If we have to hire people, then we have to hire them because we don’t want to pay time and a half if we know we have to cover a certain function,” Gainer said

Some departments are already way over their allotted overtime budget. The county assessor’s office has spent nearly four times its $25,000 budget. The highway department has spent nearly double its $60,000 budget.

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