Between now and the beginning of the City's next fiscal year, I will be working with St. Louis aldermen ' and with President Lewis Reed and Comptroller Darlene Green to build a new City government. It will be smaller and less expensive than the government we now have. It will have to be smaller and cheaper because revenues have declined in St. Louis the same as they have in every city and state in the country. It will have to be smaller and cheaper, because you cannot reasonably be asked to pay much higher taxes.
Here's some history:
Until the global economy collapsed, the City of St. Louis did not have a revenue problem. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the City of St. Louis from 2006 through 2008 experienced an eight percent increase in private sector employment. That is higher than Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, and St. Louis counties in Missouri and higher than Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair counties in Illinois. Between 2000 and 2008, the poverty rate dipped in the City of St. Louis. At the same time, it grew in the suburbs.
We did, however, have a pension and health care problem. In the last decade, the City budget'not counting the airport and the water division, which have their own budgets by law grew from $376-million to $520-million. That is almost a 40% increase. During the same time, the cost of pensions and health care grew from $18-million to $75-million, a more than 400% increase. Obviously, that was a trend that was going to have to be addressed no matter what sales and property tax revenues where doing. The economy made the problem more acute: and it gave the budget process a real focus. We have to find $45-million of cuts from government spending RIGHT NOW, without cutting so many services that we drive away the residents, jobs, and visitors that comprise our revenue base. And we have to make the City ready for the global economy's recovery.
This is not going to be an easy task, but it is necessary, inevitable and sort of exciting.