East St. Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks said at a Sunday news conference that she doesn’t see how the city will avoid layoffs because the city has a projected budget deficit of $5.7 million.
“We found waste, abuse, theft and neglect of the city’s resources,” Jackson-Hicks said of what she has seen since taking office in May, based on documents left by the previous administration. She declined to release further details. “Such behavior has greatly interfered with our ability to operate and function successfully as a city government.”
The layoffs are possible in every city department. Jackson-Hicks said possible layoffs of police officers and firefighters are under legal review and she could not comment further.
“At this point, we really do not see how the city will avoid layoffs,” Jackson-Hicks said. “We remain optimistic that every effort will be made to ensure fair treatment of every employee.”
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The budget woes also “could lead to payless paydays” this year for city employees, Jackson-Hicks said.
The city has about 187 employees overall, with about 50 police officers and about 50 firefighters.
Jackson-Hicks, who defeated former Mayor Alvin Parks in April, said the city has relied on revenue from the Casino Queen tax, but that has dropped from $11 million in 2007 to $6.3 million projected for the upcoming budget.
She also said the city in 2010 expected to receive a $2.5 million loan from the Financial Advisory Authority. “However, the problem is, the city never received the $2.5 million that was needed and was to be used to balance its budget. The city spent money that it was budgeted to receive but never received.”
The projected deficit for 2016 is $5.7 million because projected revenue totals $18.2 million while projected expenditures total $23.9 million.
On Sunday, the mayor hosted the first of three town hall meetings to discuss her priorities. The meeting on Sunday was at Gethsemane Church of God at 1435 Baugh Ave. with about 60 city officials and residents in attendance.
Jackson-Hicks introduced several new city officials to the crowd, including City Manager Traycee Chapman and Todd Fulton, the director of public safety.
East St. Louis resident Olivia Sanders went to the meeting at Gethsemane to hear Jackson-Hicks outline her goals.
“So far, I’m going to give her a thumbs up for her vision,” said Sanders, who added she looks forward to working with Jackson-Hicks.
Jackson-Hicks, who previously served on the City Council, released a 14-page “transition plan” that details her goals for the city.
“Our administration’s mission is to forge ahead by restructuring, rejuvenating, rebuilding and revitalizing the great city of East St. Louis,” Jackson-Hicks said in the introduction of the plan.
The plan addresses the budget, public safety, regulatory affairs, public works, economic development, neighborhood involvement and a youth initiative.
The second town hall meeting will be 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at New Jerusalem SDA at 6901 State St. and the third one will be 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Mary E. Brown Center at 806 S. 15th St.