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City budget one step closer to completion

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – The city of St. Louis's budget committee has signed off on a spending plan that closes a gap of $42 million for next fiscal year.

The measure sent to the full Board of Aldermen on Thursday charges for garbage pick-up for the first time. Residents will also be charged a membership fee at the city's eight recreation centers. City departments were ordered to reduce their payroll by 3.5 percent, making another round of furloughs almost certain.

None of the members of the Ways and Means committee was particularly happy with the cuts, fund shifts and fee increases needed to close that gap, but all 14 aldermen still voted to approve it.

The unity of the final vote surprised chairman Stephen Conway, since the process started out acrimoniously. Members of the Black Caucus protested a sharp reduction in the funds aldermen use for small capital projects in their ward, and were frustrated by the decision of a vice chairman to limit speaking time.

"As a whole, it represents trying to maintain the quality of life, our parks, our security, and the safety of our residents, and I feel very, very pleased that we were able to do that," Conway said.

Conway said while parts of the budget gave him heartburn this year, it's nothing compared to what the city faces next year.

"I've already warned all of the relevant parties at our last meeting to expect that if there is no significant change in our pension costs or how we pay for that pension costs, to look for six to eight percent across the board layoffs," he said.

The city will spend $72 million of its $449 million in general fund revenue on retirement plans for police, fire and city employees in fiscal year '11. That could go up to $83 million in fiscal year 2012.

The city's fiscal year starts July 1. Aldermen could vote on the budget on Friday.


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