East St. Louis has paid off more than $20 million in bonds it’s owed Illinois for nearly two decades.
Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. says the $21.4 million it borrowed 19 years ago helped bail out the city in a time of crisis, but paying them off has been a financial burden ever since.
“This is a huge deal,” he said. “What it does is send a message that East St. Louis has handled its responsibilities to the state of Illinois and we have never defaulted on our loan from the state of Illinois in terms of refinancing the bonds.”
According to Parks, the city retired the debt one year earlier than expected. He says it frees up money that can go toward upgrades in policing, firefighting and infrastructure.
“I look at the financial undergirding of the city government just like you would look at the structural undergirding that a sewer system helps to provide a community,” he said. “If you have that underground lifeblood working the way it’s supposed to work, it makes everything else possible.”
Parks says repaying the debt means the state-appointed Financial Advisory Authority will no longer have control over the city's budget.
The city of roughly 27,000 residents has $21 million in its general fund.
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