The majority of City employees — e.g., Streets Department workers, firefighters, health providers work for departments and offices that report to me or to Comptroller Darlene Green. These employees are members of the Civil Service; some of them are also members of unions. All of these employees already know that the next several budgets, which will have to reflect the fundamental changes in the national and regional economies, are going to mean fewer people, working smarter, to provide essential municipal services more efficiently. They also know that like almost every other corporation, non profit agency or state/local government, we are going to have to do something about the damage done to employee pension funds by the dramatic drop in the stock market last fall.
But, not every City employee belongs to the Civil Service. Six hundred or so additional people currently work for the City’s several “county” offices — offices, like Revenue Collector and Sheriff, that provide citizen services required by state law that are normally provided by a county government. Under our complex form of government the principals of these offices are elected in citywide elections, and are generally autonomous of City government. Their employees serve at will, meet qualifications established by their own bosses, and are not part of the Civil Service.
One such official, St. Louis License Collector Mike McMillan, announced this week that he planned to reduce the size of his office, cut salaries, accept furloughs, retrain employees to maintain standards of customer service, and beef up scrutiny of businesses that evade municipal licensing requirements. Another official, St. Louis Treasurer Larry Williams, announced two months ago that he had reorganized his office, laid off or retired 70 or so employees, and sought bids from outside firms to perform some maintenance and operations tasks.
These are good first steps. Like the municipal part of city government, the autonomous county offices are also going to have to do more with less.