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St. Louis budget and more pay for employees advance

A view looking out on the rotunda from the second floor of St. Louis city hall.
Camille Phillips
St. Louis Public Radio
If Mayor Tishaura Jones signs the measures as expected, employees of the City of St. Louis will see more money in their July 8 paychecks.

For the first time in two years, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen is poised to approve a budget.

Over the past two years, city budgets have gotten tangled up in the politics of closing the north St. Louis jail known as the Workhouse, meaning spending plans approved by a separate oversight board took effect.

But aldermen voted without opposition Tuesday to give preliminary approval to a $1.2 billion budget for fiscal 2023, which starts July 1. No one attempted to make any changes to it.

“This budget had a very thorough reviewing process,” said 19th Ward Alderwoman Marlene Davis, the chair of the Ways and Means committee. “We had great public input — we actually got some great ideas about future programming, and also some understanding of how the system works.”

The legislation includes raises and one-time bonuses for city employees, plus funding for a program that sends social workers to respond to some 911 calls. There is additional funding for affordable housing and for more employees at the city’s recreation centers.

Board members on Tuesday also gave initial approval to the measures that set the salaries and benefits for city workers, including those raises and bonuses. Officials hope the additional compensation will help stem a worker shortage.

While Alderwoman Megan Green of the 15th Ward agreed that pay increases are one way to retain and attract workers, she urged the city to think beyond just compensation in the future.

“Maybe it’s child care, maybe it’s health savings accounts or things like that, because we’re going to continue to be short as long as we are not paying competitive wages,” she said.

Alderman Jesse Todd, who represents the 18th Ward, was the lone member to vote against the pay bills.

In his ward, he said, basic city services aren’t up to par.

“I don’t see how all of them deserve $2,000 or even a raise at all, those who cannot cut grass, who cannot board up buildings, who cannot do the streets,” he said.

Aldermen will likely vote Thursday to send the budget and the pay bills to Mayor Tishaura Jones. If she approves them as expected, employees will see the bonus, and their first raise, in their July 8 paychecks.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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