The time that Springfield Housing Authority executives will devote to oversee management of a similar housing agency in Peoria won’t cause services for low-income tenants to suffer in the capital city, SHA’s executive director says.
“We will certainly not compromise either housing authority,” Jackie Newman told The State Journal-Register.
Newman, 52, a Springfield native and executive director of the SHA for almost 13 years, said she will spend at least one day a week in Peoria as part of a management agreement unanimously approved by the boards of both federally funded units of local government.
The Peoria Housing Authority will pay up to $168,000 over the next 12 months for Newman, as well as the SHA’s deputy director and director of finance, to provide management consulting services to the struggling Peoria agency.
The agreement, dated April 2, provides for 12 months of services, with the option for an additional six months.
Officials from the PHA, which is similar in size to the SHA, approached the Springfield agency a few months ago for help to improve its performance and give the PHA time to hire an executive director to replace a leader whose contract was not renewed in January, according to PHA board president Jim Fassino.
“Springfield in recent years has been a good performer,” Fassino said.
Fassino noted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development lists SHA has a “high performer” and PHA as “substandard” based on HUD’s Public Housing Assessment System scores dealing with finances, management and physical facilities.
PHA, which operates with a $17 million annual budget and about 45 employees, wants to improve the occupancy rate for its 850 housing units and otherwise improve operations and avoid being taken over by HUD, Fassino said.
Peoria’s occupancy rate is below 90 percent, while Springfield’s is about 97 percent.
SHA, which operates with an annual budget of about $20 million, and 65 employees, has more than 800 public housing units and 2,200 Section 8 vouchers.
More than 90 percent of funding for SHA and PHA comes from the federal government.
The maximum annual payment from PHA for the management consulting services is “a very fair deal for us,” Fassino said, adding that $168,000 is about what PHA would pay annually for an executive director’s salary, health insurance and other benefits.
“I am thrilled to accept this relationship,” he said.
The PHA has a “good staff,” he said, “but they need the leadership.”
SHA board chairman Timothy Schweizer said he is “very comfortable with our Springfield Housing Authority team helping the Peoria Housing Authority getting turned around.”
SHA’s management team already has a “full plate,” and “there’s no question we’re not overstaffed,” Schweizer said.
The fact that the PHA approached SHA officials “speaks volumes” about the quality of Newman as an administrator and her associates, Schweizer said.
As part of the agreement between the two housing authorities, PHA will pay SHA $2,000 per month for access to SHA executives and for travel expenses.
In addition, Newman, SHA deputy director Melissa Huffstedtler and finance director Michelle Sergent will be personally compensated at an hourly salary rate equivalent to time-and-a-half based on their current hourly rates, Newman said.
Newman said she will be the SHA official providing the majority of the housing authority’s services to Peoria and expects to spend at least one day each week in Peoria, which is about 75 miles north of Springfield.
The pay to SHA administrators from PHA will be on top of the regular salaries they will continue to receive from SHA, she said.
The SHA wouldn’t immediately provide the salaries and hourly pay rates for Newman, Huffstedtler and Sergent.
Newman initially said she would provide the numbers last week. Then the housing authority on Tuesday required the newspaper to file an Illinois Freedom of Information Act request for the information. That request has been filed.
SHA operated under HUD control for 18 months in the late 1990s. Newman wasn’t executive director at the time but worked for the agency during that period. She has worked continuously for SHA for 34 years, first as a receptionist, then administrative assistant, human resource manager, director of Section 8 and family self-sufficiency and deputy director before becoming executive director.
Newman earned an associate’s degree from Robert Morris College and received a bachelor’s in management and a master’s in public administration from the University of Illinois Springfield. She is working on a doctorate in public administration from UIS.
Newman said intergovernmental agreements in which housing authorities share expertise are not uncommon in Illinois and nationwide, but this is the first time the SHA has entered into such a pact.
Providing management services for a fee is specifically allowed under HUD rules, she said.
“I’m here to help,” Newman said. “We are busy in Springfield. If I as a leader didn’t feel we had the management capacity to be able to assist Peoria Housing Authority, I would have said, ‘Thank you, but no thank you.’ I believe we have the management capacity to provide assistance. … If you have the ability to help a fellow man, then help a fellow man.”
Newman said she already has met with managers and employees at the PHA.
“I said, ‘I don’t have a magic wand, and I don’t walk on water, but what we can do together as a team is we can figure out where we are, where we want to be, and then create an action plan of how to get there.’”
Contact Dean Olsen: firstname.lastname@example.org, 788-1543, twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.