In normal years, the City of St. Louis does not begin its public budget process for the next Fiscal Year in earnest until late April. However, there is nothing normal about this year.
Like just about every other governmental jurisidiction, every household, every business, and every non-profit group, the City of St. Louis has less money because of the global recession. And because the employees, firefighter and police pension systems lost so much money when the stock market crashed, our pension costs are going up as well.
That double whammy ' lower projected revenue and higher projected pension expenses - will require fthe City to fill a budget gap of about $45 million in the next fiscal year, roughly nine or ten percent of the budget. That isn't a catastrophe, but it is a challenge. And it will require a stronger consensus than usual, because it will result in some things being less and different.
To get the discussion started, my staff has developed a menu of ideas - pretty much every feasible or nearly feasible idea we could think of - and presented it to the Board of Aldermen. You may read that menu document here.
Here are my thoughts: We have to decide what we value, want and need from City government, preserve those services - and eliminate others. For me, that means keeping our neighborhoods safe and clean. So, cutting police protection or criminal prosecution is not on the list. But, others may have different ideas.
We must eliminate wasteful redundancies both within City government and within the region. We have to rethink the best ways to deliver services. And, we have to be open to the possibility that someone else can provide a service better than City government can.
As we go forward, I want everyone to know what the options are and have the ability to take part in the debate over what we should preserve and what we should leave out.
The document is definitely provocative. I want to challenge everyone and spur imaginative thinking about ways we can reduce our costs and do things better.
The document is public. I want to give everyone the chance to compare and contrast the options and know what things cost. You are taxpayers and what you want on the list ' or off it ' is important.
The document is the starting point of a process. I want to put the options on the table in a transparent manner so that you can take part in the coming discussions. Your aldermen have it now. Let them know what you think.