For eight members of the East St. Louis Police Department, Oct. 25 is a day they will dread. It will be their last day at work.
City Manager Alvin Parks, Jr. notified them Thursday. The layoffs include one detective and seven police officers.
“The city deems the layoffs to be temporary but indefinite,” Parks said.
The officers who are being laid off are those who were last hired by the city. Parks said he anticipates that within a month, he will be announcing additional layoffs.
“We are working to try to do something long term,” he said, “and in the best interest of city and police and fire. The city has identified potential efficiencies with human resources with more to find. Employee versatility and the ability to multi-task will be the city’s ability to operate in lean fashion.”
The budget crunch dictates the city keep cutting. Parks said the effective use of technology will continue to drive down the need for human resources. Training and smart use of employees will lesson the city’s dependency on outside contractors and consultants. Also part of his plan is the use of interns, college students, AARP workers, and earnfare workers.
Parks said the earliest the officers could be hired back would probably be sometime in the spring.
“But, if we can hire them back sooner, we will,” he said. “Nobody wants to see police officers laid off. It goes back to fiscal responsibility. We have to make sure we’re working to get within our means. You don’t build a budget by saying how many expenses do I have, so let’s make revenue match expenses.”
Parks said talks with the firefighters’ union “appear to be going significantly better with regards to what will be in the best interest of city and the fire deportment long term.”
Beyond that, Parks said he could not get into any details of the discussion. The city and the fire department have not finalized anything as yet, he said.
He said the city and the Fraternal Order of police union “need to continue re-negotiating the contract, in general. The city cannot approach meeting the requirements adopted years ago and re-adopted in recent years. The city does not have the population or money to continue business as usual.”
Despite the layoffs, Parks said citizens do not have to worry — the 14.4 square miles that make up East St. Louis will be safe. There are a total of 52 officers on the force, including the eight who will soon be laid off. Parks said Chief Michael Hubbard has already been reaching out to the surrounding police departments soliciting their help to make the city’s streets as safe as possible.
He said the city has to grow its tax base to generate more revenue for the city. He said plans are already under way to do that. To start with, Parks said the city is looking to bring in small businesses and housing development. Asked whether the city’s budget deficit is $7.8 million, Parks said that number has to be looked at in terms of how far behind we are in revenues versus expenditures. He believes the deficit is more like $5 million.
He said some aspects of the budget the city approved last year were not revealed to everyone by a previous city manager and he does not know why. He said better checks and balances should have been put in place so everyone would have known what the city’s real expenses were. And, he said the City Council would have been informed of the city’s real expenses.
For example, the city budgeted $94,000 from 2012-2014 for workman’s comp. This year, the city is on pace to spend $1.6 million. So the figure of $94,000 for years 2012-2014 were grossly understated to the tune of $700,000, he said.
“If you take the $700,000 times the three years, it equals $2.1 million. Add that to the $1.6 million, you’re at $2.8 million in workman’s comp payments that you never budgeted for,” Parks said.
He said the driving factor behind the layoffs is the need to reduce the city’s costs.
“The city manager will apprise the mayor, the City Council and the East St. Louis public of any and all changes made and needed,” Parks said.
Since becoming city manager, Parks laid off six others: Ty Taylor, who was the city’s economic development director and external affairs director; Jessica Ernli, external communications manager; Latoya Clemons, human resources assistant; Cary Lewis, administrative assistant in the police department; Dedra Brock-Moore, former director of the Department of Regulatory Affairs; and Stacy Perkins, a telecommunicator.
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503