Cash-strapped East St. Louis has received an overdue gift from the state just in time for the holidays: $2.5 million worth of back taxes from the Illinois gaming board.
Normally East St. Louis receives a portion of gaming revenue spent at the Casino Queen on a monthly basis. But until Illinois passed a partial budget earlier this month, the state comptroller’s office didn’t have the authority to release the funds.
The infusion of five months of gaming taxes into city coffers appears to have pushed back the specter of “payless paydays” for at least a few months.
East St. Louis treasurer Charlotte Moore told St. Louis Public Radio the $2.5 million should “cover January (and) February payrolls (for city employees). Probably the first week of March.”
“That’s if we don’t pay anything but essential bills, such as utilities, things like that,” Moore said. “We have a major insurance payment due in January as well. So we just have to plan and spend accordingly.”
East St. Louis is projecting a budget deficit of almost $6 million in 2016. Declining gambling revenue and a failure to pay pension payments on time have both contributed to the city’s current financial crisis.
East St. Louis legal fees could also soon go up. The local police and fire pension funds have sued the city over their delinquent payments.
Asked how the pension lawsuits could impact the city’s ability to pay its employees, Moore said the suit will eventually make things more difficult.
“It’s a two-edged sword. If you don’t pay the pension people, the state has changed the law where they can put a lien on the state taxes,” Moore said, adding that the pension fund “needs to be paid. How we’re going to work it out I don’t know, but we have to work that out.”
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.