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Civil Service Commission sends aldermen pay plan for St. Louis City employees

By Rachel Lippmann

St. Louis – The Civil Service Commission has sent the St. Louis Board of Aldermen they pay plan for 4,500 city employees.

The pay plan is one of the last pieces needed to balance the budget that took effect Thursday. City officials were looking for about $3.3 million in personnel savings to help close the $46 million gap.

For most city employees, five of the city's 13 holidays will be unpaid days off, and managers will have to take an additional five furlough days. The furloughs expanded this year to include employees in offices like revenue collector and sheriff's deputies, and are more tightly scheduled than last year.

City employees are also giving up a perk known as sick-leave buyback, where unused sick time can boost pension benefits or pay levels at retirement. Previously accumulated sick time can still be applied, but future time will not accumulate.

The city reached agreement with 10 of 11 bargaining groups on the pay plan - negotiators could not reach a deal with the firefighters. They are most upset with a provision that eliminates extra pay for working nights - a benefit other employees will retain.

While furloughs will cost the majority of city employees a week of pay, elimination of the night-shift differential could cost firefighters two weeks, said David Rodriguez, a rookie firefighter at one of the city's busiest houses.

"I have bills to pay, I have things I have to take care of," he said. "And then being the lowest member as far as the last class, I'm most likely to be laid off. And so I feel like a lot of this, it's personal almost."

The budget that took effect Thursday cut the department by $2 million, which the union says will lead to layoffs.

Barb Geisman, a top aide to Mayor Francis Slay, said the city tried to save enough money in salaries to cover the amount it had to put into various pension plans.

"On the city employees side the pension payment is going up around $1.7 million. On the firefighter's side it's going up $5.8 million," she said.

Geisman said the firefighters have asked the city to present possible pensions changes in an effort to get that rapid growth under control. She said the proposal will be ready by July 15. The city is also in very early talks with its unions about moving new hires away from traditional pensions.

Payments into the pension systems cost the city $71 million in general revenue this year. That could go up another $12 million next year, though Geisman said the elimination of sick-leave buyback will relieve some of the pressure.

Even with furloughs and other reductions, departments will still have to find about $500,000 in additional savings on their own.


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