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Tough economy hits county government

By Maria Hickey, KWMU

St. Louis – The poor economy is making things difficult for governments everywhere, including St. Louis County.

Revenues are expected to decline or remain flat next year, but next year's proposed budget is bigger than this year's.

St. Louis County Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls said the proposal calls for $11.6 million more in expenditures in 2009 to keep up with mandatory costs.

At the same time, the county estimates revenues from things such as sales and property taxes will decline a little more than two percent.

Earls said the county has been making cost-cutting moves in this year's budget, which include leaving jobs vacant, in order to help shore up next year's budget.

"We're holding back for instance on hiring people who drive dump trucks in our highway department, which you could say that's no big deal," Earls said. "But I'm looking outside and the clouds are hanging low and those same dump trucks are also snowplows, so that'll be a challenge."

While Earls said more than 400 positions remain vacant, the county is planning to hire more juvenile police officers, and to spend more on economic development.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the council chambers.

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