The Metro East Sanitary District has laid off 20 employees because of quickly deteriorating financial issues.
The employees, most of whom are laborers, were laid off after the MESD board voted unanimously Wednesday to cut payroll by nearly $1 million on an annual basis. Some clerical staff and the district treasurer also lost their jobs.
MESD’s financial situation has been deteriorating for years, said executive director Stephen Adler. The district lost more than $2.3 million in 2016.
Layoffs were the only option left, said board member Don Sawicki. Sawicki, along with Helen Hawkins and Charlie Brinza, was appointed to the board in May after three board members resigned. They inherited the budget problems, Sawicki said, and he added that he was not aware of the extent of the problem until a few weeks in.
“The new board inherited an organization that has lost $6 million from 2010 through 2016,” said Kurt Prenzler, Madison County Board chairman. “They are facing the problems head on and acting quickly.”
Sawicki said the layoffs were not something they did lightly, but with the considerable debt MESD is in, they had no other choice.
“It’s money, it boils down to that,” Sawicki said. “As we dug into the budget and started adding up numbers, there’s just no other way.”
Because past management did not act to relieve the problem, Sawicki said they are now discovering their backs are against the wall. If there weren’t layoffs now, Sawicki said, the number of jobs lost would increase in the future.
“It’s painful, extremely, but if we wait, it will more painful,” he said.
The layoffs may lead to delays within MESD, and it will most likely have some negative effects, Sawicki said. But the effect won’t be as bad as being heavily in debt.