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St. Louis Budget Takes Effect Without Approval From Aldermen

The City of St. Louis is experiencing an employee shortage after freezing new hires for a year.
File photo / David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
A dispute between St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed and Mayor Tishaura Jones contributed to aldermen not passing the fiscal 2022 budget, which takes effect Thursday.

For the second year in a row, the budget for the City of St. Louis will take effect without action by the Board of Aldermen.

The $1.1 billion spending plan for fiscal 2022 starts Thursday. Last week, the aldermanic Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the budget, recommended that the full board not pass it, because revenue from housing federal prisoners at the Medium Security Institution, known as the Workhouse, was no longer in the budget.

“I’ve never had a budget year where a revenue stream was removed during the budget process while it was being debated by the Board of Aldermen,” said its president, Lewis Reed. “I’m just thankful that the members of the board just happened to ask the right question on the right day so that we found out we had a budget before us that had a $5.7 million hole in it.”

Mayor Tishaura Jones said she presented several options to close the gap and called Reed’s outrage “fake.”

The federal inmate contract was one of several flashpoints over the budget between Reed and Jones. Reed opposed cutting nearly 100 vacant positions from the St. Louis police department over concerns about overtime. He was also reluctant to completely eliminate funding for the Workhouse in north St. Louis.

But in the end, those elements remained in the budget, due in part to Comptroller Darlene Green. Because the committee did not take action, the budget debated by Green, Jones and Reed in April as the Board of Estimate and Apportionment took effect. Green had been the second vote to remove funding for the vacant police positions.

“Budgets are moral documents, and I’m pleased that I was able to make some changes to this year’s budget seeing as though I had to introduce it on my second day on the job,” Jones said.

The back-and-forth between Reed and Jones is likely to continue as the city works to spend the latest round of federal coronavirus relief funding. The two have competing plans at the Board of Aldermen, which goes on summer break July 16.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.