City government and City residents have begun a discussion about how to budget for the next fiscal year. The City's fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30. The current fiscal year is 2010; FY 2011 begins July 1, 2010.
Because of rising employee health and pension costs and because of a certain dip in revenues as the City recovers from the effects of the global economic meltdown, the budget for FY 2011 must be approximately $45 million smaller than this year's. This will require some hard choices.
So, in a process that actually began a full four months before the budget will be formally presented for the first time, committee hearings have been convened, directors have been quizzed, drafts of budget suggestions have been circulated among aldermen and posted on the Internet, meetings with neighborhood groups, civic leaders, and business associations have been scheduled and held, employee groups have been consulted, and public suggestions have been solicited. In all, this is already the most completely transparent budget process in the City's history.
My own hard lines are these: (1) I will not support a tax increase; (2) We must take steps to get the cost of employee fringe benefits under control before they destroy vital City services including in the police and fire departments; (3) We must combine duplicated functions and consider turning services over to others if they can do a better or more efficient job; (4) We must minimize the impact of all cuts on our neighborhoods, especially crime fighting.
If other cities and states are any indication, special interests will argue, picket, and fight for what is best for themselves, rather than the common good. My job, and the job of other elected officials in City government, is to do what is best for the people of St. Louis.
I will consider any legitimate suggestions. If you have any, please make them now ' to me or to your own alderman. What does your alderman have to do with the budget process?
Here is what the law says:
By law, the City's budget must be balanced, i.e., its revenues and expenses must match.
By law, a balanced budget must be approved each fiscal year by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (the mayor, the comptroller, and the president of the Board of Aldermen).
By law, the Board of Aldermen and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment must approve the same budget. If the Board of Aldermen fails to approve it, the budget approved by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment becomes the City's budget for the fiscal year. That only rarely happens, and neither President Lewis Reed nor I expects it to happen this year.
When it comes to the budget, the aldermen's job, which most of them do well, is to make the hard choices that protect City services and minimize the damage done by a bad economy. Those choices are being made right now.
The aldermen with the greatest amount of influence on this project are members of the aldermanic Ways and Means Committee. Here's who is in on that committee: Steve Conway, Jeffrey Boyd, Marlene Davis, Jennifer Florida, Antonio French, Steve Gregali, Kacie Triplett, Charles Quincy Troupe, Joe Vacccaro, Matt Villa, Bill Waterhouse, Fred Wessels, and Frank Williamson. (In addition, President Reed is an ex officio voting member of Ways and Means.)
Their participation in this process ' and yours ' is essential.
(Photo from stlouiscore.com.)