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Mayor gets 2010 budget for city

By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has approved the city's operating plan for fiscal year 2010.

The $960 million budget is essentially the same as last year's, as revenue remained flat. To cope with rising expenses, aldermen are counting on $3.4 million in salary savings from furloughs - a week for regular civil service employees, two weeks for management-level. The aldermen have agreed to dock themselves a week's pay - President Lewis Reed will lose two weeks - but police and fire are exempt.

The city has yet to reach a deal with the unions on the proposal, said Alderman Stephen Conway of the 8th Ward, the chair of the city's Ways and Means Committee.

"We balanced this budget through furloughs," he said. "[Without them,] you would be talking 60 to 70 more people laid off."

Aldermen ultimately sent the budget to Mayor Francis Slay without opposition, but 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffery Boyd took a few minutes to blast the furloughs, which he called unfair. And he also criticized his colleagues for making the pension issue worse with a pay raise for city employees last year, then ignoring the issue while crafting the budget.

"Just using basic, let's say eighth grade math, if you have a system that is kind of draining you, and then you add more employees to that system, it increases your costs of benefits," he said. "I mean, it's just a natural progression there."

Conway said he supports a defined contribution plan like a 401(k) for new city employees. But the Missouri General Assembly sets pensions for the city's police and fire department, and Conway said he won't make changes to the civil service pension system without action in Jefferson City first. Pension contributions will cost the city $62 million this year. That will be $80 million next year.

Also Friday, the aldermen approved a resolution authorizing the Public Employees Committee to investigate the city's personnel department. The committee's chair, 14th ward Alderman Stephen Gregali, said he's heard complaints from several other city departments about the personnel division.