This is another tight budget year. Rising health care and pension costs, especially, are giving the Budget Division (and most Americans) nightmares.
I will propose three important changes to the draft 2007 Budget: money for a modest and faster pay raise for 7,000 municipal employees; funds for 8 new job placement counselors at the job training agency; and $1.6 million to pay part of the maintenance bill in Forest Park.
I plan to present those changes to members of the Board of Estimate & Apportionment (by letter) and the aldermanic Ways & Means committee this morning. Here’s my thinking about the proposed changes:
The City of St. Louis is undergoing a renaissance that has attracted national attention from USA Today, National Public Radio, Dow Jones News Service, and other news media. Our City looks better, is cleaner, safer, more beautiful, with more residents, better municipal services, and a growing tax base. Most importantly, there is a strong faith in the City’s future. Municipal employees have played a vital role in our City’s turn-around. Unfortunately, because of tight budgets and rising pension costs, we have not been able to adequately compensate them. Alderman Steve Conway and I have developed a plan to provide City employees a modest pay raise, effective January 1, 2007.
I noted in my recent State of the City address that more good jobs in the region could ease a lot of social problems including crime, neighborhood deterioration, and uninsured families. SLATE director Tom Jones has done a good job over the past couple of years matching workers with employers. Eight new job placement counselors will help accelerate his efforts.
It is not yet clear whether the City’s current lease with BJC will be extended or whether the lease payments will increase to $1.8 million a year, from approximately $150,000 a year. I am proposing we add $1.6 million from General Revenue to next year’s budget for the maintenance of Forest Park. If the lease is extended in time, that money will be available to improve other parks in the City instead.
These three changes mean a bigger budget than I had initially proposed.
The new spending in the budget will be offset by a growth in revenue, increased state prisoner reimbursement, and a reduction in management jobs.
These changes must be approved by the Board of Aldermen and the Board of Estimate & Apportionment. I hope they do so.