The St. Louis Board of Aldermen Friday passed a $1.1 billion annual spending plan that includes more money for vacant building demolition and crime reduction.
After passing the board on a 20-5 vote, the budget proposal will be sent to Mayor Lyda Krewson for her signature before going into effect Monday. The total amount is the same as last year’s budget.
Alderman Joseph Vollmer, D-10th Ward, and the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, acknowledged there are flaws in every budget, but that overall he’s satisfied with the way things turned out.
“We got 85% of the things we asked for,” he said. “So it was a good budget meeting this week.”
The 2019 budget notably includes:
- $625,000 in additional funding for building demolition programs
- Hiring a new building inspector
- $500,000 for a crime reduction program like CURE Violence
- $110,000 to supply firefighters with Narcan, which is used to treat drug overdose victims
- Additional money for the Forestry Division to hire more employees
Not everyone agreed with the budget. “No” votes included: Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward; Sam Moore, D-4th Ward; Jesse Todd, D-18th Ward; Shane Cohn, D-25th Ward; and Megan Green, D-15th Ward.
Green said her decision was made in part because of what she viewed to be a lack of substantial funding for a violence-reduction program.
“All of us as a city want a city where our crime rates are decreasing, yet we continue to underfund programs that actually support people,” she said.
Vollmer agreed the city likely needs much more money for an effective CURE Violence program, but said the $500,000 allocated was a start. He’s hoping the city will qualify for grants to bring in additional funds for those efforts.
Others raised concerns that there still wasn’t enough money going toward the Forestry Division, specifically to cut grass on vacant properties. Todd said there’s grass as tall as two feet in his ward, while Moore complained the grass in his ward is even higher.
Tyus, who has not voted for a budget in several years, expressed her concerns with a lack of funding for grass mowing as well as for an additional zoning inspector, among other things.
“What I want you to know, is that I will continue to vote no until you have a priority that says all the citizens in St. Louis should live a great life, all the citizens should expect to have quiet peace in their neighborhoods,” she said.
Green also questioned the entire budget process, arguing that two months wasn’t enough time to have a comprehensive discussion about how to fund the city.
“I think there needs to be some operational audits where we are looking at the efficacy of our programs and comparing what really works and what doesn’t and really starting to build a budget over from scratch,” she said.
She added that she’s been working with several other members of the board to change the budget process. She would like to see the budget start at zero every year and then be built from there.
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