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Seventeen East St. Louis firefighters will lose their jobs at the end of the month. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that City Manager Deletra Hudson sent a letter to the firefighters saying the city "has been forced to make some difficult financial decisions to meet its budgetary obligations."
The firefighters had been hired with federal grant money. When the grant ran out in March, East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks said the city found some extra money to keep the firefighters on the job until the end of September.
Parks told the paper that he expects eight of the laid off firefighters to be called back when the new city budget kicks in January 1st.
East St. Louis currently employs 54 firefighters.
Some metro-east pastors are upset with the City of East St. Louis for levying what they call a tax on churches.
On January 1st, the city imposed a $100 registration fee on churches and nonprofits. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the annual fee is supposed to offset the city's cost of doing fire and safety inspections.
Local pastors spoke out against the fee at Thursday's City Council meeting. Many blamed Mayor Alvin Parks, who defends the fee. The city council considered the pastors argument and pushed back the fee deadline from June 30th to September 30th.
Houses of worship have generally been exempt from taxes since a 1970 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue. Civic fees charged against houses of worship have been struck down as "church taxes" in the past.