ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The St. Louis County Council is fixing its budget problem by not filling nearly 400 positions next year.

The council budget committee, consisting of two Republicans and two Democrats, recommended a proposed budget for the next fiscal year that would cut hundreds of unfilled positions at the jail, as well as at the police and public health departments.

St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder said the county is facing a $41 million deficit.

“We have been meeting for over a month and a half now,” Harder said. “With all the department heads to talk about their ideas on how we can either cut the budget or increase revenues.”

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page was asked about the budget recommendations at a news conference early Wednesday morning.

“The proposed cuts are the flexibility budgeting for open positions that probably won’t be filled during the year,” Page said. “Traditionally, we had that flexibility, and their proposal is to cut some of that back.”

Harder said many of St. Louis County’s problems with the budget have been longstanding.

The council’s budget proposal acknowledged the challenges posed by the current economic situation.

“We do so with grave concern for our employees and taxpayers,” said Councilwoman Rita Days, chair of the St. Louis County Council. “I wish to express that the recommended pay raises for our existing employees are still intact.”

The chairwoman also said that the council will consider additional appropriations when they are needed. Priority is given to public safety and public health needs. The council is getting rid of 75% of the vacant positions in all departments, including the county council’s budget. This includes the general fund and the health fund. Many of these positions in various departments have gone unfilled for several years.

In the general fund, $22,004,039 will be cut, and $5,293,043 in the health fund will be cut. The structural deficits in the general fund and the health fund are not fixed by these steps. Significant issues remain. These cuts reduce the structural deficits by roughly half within each fund.

“Going forward, I have asked the county executive to commit to monthly meetings to get a better handle on budget priorities for the next fiscal year,” Days said.

In order to get the situation under control, the county council recommended the following cuts:

  1. General fund – Cut the following items (total $1,390,002):
    a. $175,002 from the Prosecuting Attorney for three vehicle purchases
    b. $30,000 from the county counselor for miscellaneous attorney contracts under Chapter 110
    c. $385,000 from TPW for vehicle charging infrastructure
    d. $800,000 from TPW for neighborhood services (demolitions/services covered by $11,000,000.00 ARPA)
  2. Cut the 24 new positions from the recommendation ($1,468,488 total)
    a. Five positions (two internal auditors and three internal auditors, senior) from the council/auditor ($533,935)
    b. Three positions (ERP Analyst, ERP Senior Analyst, and Senior Procurement Contract Administrator) from administration ($299,408)
    c. Sixteen positions (all corrections officers) from justice services ($941,984). There is an offsetting increase to overtime of $306,839
  3. Cut 75% of currently vacant positions (see the second page of the attachment – total appropriation reduction of $25.6 million). These cuts to vacant positions include the health fund. Savings GF – $22,004,039.00/ HF – $5,293,043.00 for a total of $27,093,206.00.
    a. Looked only at full-time and permanent part-time positions; excluded positions currently vacant but were not budgeted for next year and did not include department director positions in the County Executive’s Office since the Charter requires them.
    b. The positions are to be eliminated. Planning and County Counselors are fully staffed; therefore, they take no cut. Increased – the retirement contribution by $1.4 million to pay for the retiree.