Outside experts are expected to carry out an audit of operations within the Metro East Sanitary District (MESD), a move that follows 10 layoffs and promises of 10 more later this year.
The audit will look at what other efficiency measures can be instituted amid a budget crunch, including increasing revenues and updating infrastructure, according to an outside counsel retained at the same time as the district's new executive director, Steve Adler.
Measures to try to plug the budget hole in the district are being more aggressively pursued following the resignation in May of all three Metro East Sanitary District board members from Madison County.
That allowed Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler to appoint three new members, Helen Hawkins, Charlie Brinza and Don Sawicki. The new board immediately appointed Adler, who vowed to work on fixing financial problems, including a $2.3 million loss in 2016.
"This is what I would say. The financial situation has been deteriorating for years," attorney James Craney of the Craney Law Firm, told the Record.
The board has to address expenditures, and that "unfortunately includes a loss of jobs," Craney said.
"That is 10 positions immediately, and the board voted to lay off 10 more at the end of the mowing season to save $1 million," Craney said.
Once those layoffs are complete, the board will "determine what happens next," Craney said.
In other moves, Adler immediately eliminated an assistant director position within the district.
"No one is ever happy when you have to lay off people," Craney said.
He would not say whether there has been pushback but added, "Our position remains that we are open to listening to everyone and to work together."
The board is looking closely at revenues, including easements and how much is owed by entities and companies from the past, which may not have been followed up on, Craney said.
Craney would not say whether these problems were previously addressed.
"The issues have been identified now and we are working on them," he said.
He confirmed the board will retain outside auditors to see where other efficiency measures can be introduced.
Since Prenzler took office in December, he fired nine department heads and others on county boards and commissions.
Adler said the district was forced to lay off employees as the result of severe budgetary constraints.
“This is not pleasant, but we have been left with no alternative," Adler said in a statement. “The board and I have quickly focused on where we can save money and fix the problems facing this district.”
Penzler said in a press release that the board is reacting "quickly" to problems.
“The new board inherited an organization that has lost $6 million from 2010 through 2016,” Prenzler said. “They are facing the problems head on and acting quickly.”
The board recently voted unanimously to cut payroll by nearly $1 million annually. These reductions were shared between Madison and St. Clair counties.
“This is just one step in a plan to increase revenue and reduce expenses to turn around years of deficit spending," newly appointed MESD President Charlie Brinza said.