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Aldermen start work on "lean" budget

By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Pension costs and flat revenue are the biggest challenges facing St. Louis aldermen this year as they craft the fiscal year 2010 budget for the city of St. Louis.

The budget overall this year is one percent, or $162,000, smaller than last year. City officials predict mostly flat revenues as sales and earnings taxes slump.

"The revenues are up in fiscal year 2009, but if you remember, that's because the rate went up," said budget director Paul Payne. "They're up 6.2 percent, but just based on rate, they should be up 13 percent, which tells you the base is actually down 7 percent."

The budget includes no cost of living increases, and 144 positions - including 21 currently occupied - will be eliminated. Employees are also negotiating with the city over mandatory furloughs that could stretch to two weeks for some manager-level positions.

Mayor Francis Slay said he expected tight budgets until the city got its pension costs under control.

"If everything the way we see things now continues, it'll probably go up another 1000 percent over the next four years," he said. "That's a tremendous lug on our budget."

Slay acknowledged that a committee looking into pension system reforms has made very little progress.