East St. Louis employees across all departments could be facing layoffs due to a budget deficit approaching $5.7 million by 2016.
“We will make every effort as an administration to review all legal options and only look at layoffs as a last resort. However at this point we really do not see how the city will avoid layoffs,” said Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks in a prepared statement to news outlets Sunday afternoon.
The statement gave a detailed history of what the mayor said led to East St. Louis’ current financial problems, including:
- “waste, abuse, theft and neglect of the city’s resources” found during an internal review ordered by the mayor
- city budgets that included a 2010 $2.5 million loan from the Financial Advisory Authority, despite never receiving the money. (The Financial Advisory Authority was a state agency tasked with returning East St. Louis to financial stability. It was dissolved in 2013)
- lack of a plan to pay for firefighters after the end of a two-year, $3.3 million federal grant
- $2.8 million in pension costs
- more than $1.9 million in worker’s compensation claims and settlements
- ongoing litigation due to violations of contracts with the firefighters union
- declining revenue, including revenue from the Casino Queen. East St. Louis expects to receive $6.3 million this year; in 2007 the city received about $11 million
But the mayor did not give specifics about how the budget deficit will be reduced other than to say that the problems could lead to “payless paydays this year” and that “possible layoffs in every department will be considered.” She added that “currently layoffs in the police and fire departments are in legal review and therefore cannot be publicly discussed.”
“We will make every effort as an administration to review all legal options and only look at layoffs as a last resort. However at this point we really do not see how the city will avoid layoffs,” said Jackson-Hicks. “We remain optimistic that every effort will be made to insure fair treatment of every employee.”
The mayor said that her administration has asked St. Clair County to help laid off employees find work and that her office is weighing other options that are not ready to be discussed.
She read the statement Sunday afternoon ahead of three town hall meetings -- scheduled for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings -- where the mayor plans to share her goals and priorities for her first year in office.
Jackson-Hicks didn’t take questions when she met with journalists but said she would answer questions from the public at the town halls.
Here's where the town halls will be:
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.