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Budget committee OKs spending plan for city of St. Louis

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis' Ways and Means committtee has approved the city's $1.1 billion budget, which will take effect July 1.

St. Louis’ budget committee on Wednesday approved the city’s $1.1 billion spending plan that is set to take effect July 1.

Members voted unanimously to send the budget to the full Board of Aldermen, a much different outcome than one last week when the committee deadlocked 3-3. The panel had to approve the budget this week in order for the full board to meet the deadline.

Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, D-21st Ward, said he changed his no vote to yes in order to avoid being the one who delayed the process.

“I do not believe it is the best budget, but I am confident that I can work with aldermen and the mayor’s office to get some of the vital services that my ward needs,” he said.

For example, Collins-Muhammad said, he wants to make sure that extra park rangers who are assigned to patrol in O’Fallon and Fairground parks remain there the entire summer, rather than just for a few weeks.

“I do think we can come up with innovative ways to fund more police officers in north city, to fund more park rangers in the parks that need to be served and protected. There are numerous things that can be done if we all work together,” he said. “And that’s why the budget passed today, because we are all confident that we are going to work together to get these things done.”

Alderman Joe Vaccaro, D-23rd Ward, also changed his vote from no to yes.

“At this point, we’re going off of trust and promises,” he said. “If they keep their word, that’s a good thing,” he said, referring to aldermen and Mayor Lyda Krewson.

A spokeswoman for the mayor confirmed that members of her staff had met with the aldermen, but had no specifics of any deals.

What’s in the budget

The 2019 fiscal year is the first in which the city will collect two sales tax increases targeted at public safety and economic development.

That means more money for affordable housing and services for individuals who are homeless. The city was also able to set aside more for building demolition and recreation programs. The committee restored funding to ward capital, or pots of money aldermen can spend on small-scale projects in their ward. That was made possible by a deal between Treasurer Tishaura Jones and Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, D-22nd Ward, which funds the Neighborhood Stabilization Officers, who help residents address nuisance issues. The ward capital money had been shifted to those positions.

The deal also helped the city purchase tow trucks and boost its reserve fund.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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