East St. Louis in financial turmoil, city at risk of layoffs and payless paydays

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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – The City of East St. Louis facing a severe financial crisis that could result in layoffs and payless paydays. It could also force the city to slash some services.

The mayor and city council held a special meeting Friday night to try to figure out a way out of the mess.

The crisis was brought on by the city’s failure to keep up with payments to the East St. Louis police and firefighters pension funds. Now the city is on the hook for more than $7 million in past-due payments.

The pension boards, meanwhile, have struck back hard. They voted to ask the Illinois Comptroller to intercept state funds bound for East St. Louis and instead direct that money to the pensions.

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The problem is that East St. Louis uses funds for operations to run departments like police and fire. Neither the mayor nor the city manager would comment on camera.

The You Paid For Team talked to Councilman Ryan Cason. He says, “Ahh, [we] may have to close our door. Payless paydays, possible job cuts, it would be unfortunate for the city to not have a police department and fire department to go out and help save lives.”

A city spokesperson also issued this statement: “The city of East St. Louis is working diligently with the fire and police union to come to a mutual resolution. We are confident that there will be an agreement met between all parties involved in the next couple of weeks.”

This is not the first time East St. Louis has been in a jam like this. The same thing happened back in 2019 when the pension boards were asking the state to intercept East St. Louis funds because of missed payments to the pension fund.

Cason says an agreement then also helped avert a financial disaster. ”Right and we barely, luckily, didn’t have to make any cuts. These are payless paydays. We were able to get out of that situation. This situation is different, and we’re going to do our best to try to get through it.”

He says it was different because the city is in worse financial shape.

It appears officials did not reach an agreement Friday night on solving the crisis. We asked Council Cason his thoughts about that.

”Like I said, the staff and city manager have been working around the clock to try to get this resolved as fast as possible,” said Cason.

As to whether he thinks there will be a deal… “I really hope so,” he said.


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