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Aldermen start looking for solutions beyond furloughs

By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – St. Louis aldermen have started posing their own solutions to avoid controversial furloughs of city employees.

The budget for fiscal year 2010 asks the city's 4300 unionized employees to take a week off without pay. Non-unionized managers would take two weeks off.

One proposal would allow city employees to work four, ten-hour days. But that won't save the three point four million dollars needed to keep the budget balanced, said budget director Paul Payne.

"Seventy, 75 percent of your budget's in personnel costs," Payne said. "Yes, if you close offices you might have some energy savings on a day like that, but it's not going to be sufficient to offset what are your personnel costs."

Several aldermen, including Jeffrey Boyd, who represents Ward 22, want to cut salaries two percent across the board, essentially negating a pay raise negotiated into last year's contract.

"I voted against the contract for that reason," Boyd said. "All the data supported the fact that everything was down, but we wanted to give everybody a pay increase, and just forget about, we'll fix it when it happens. So we're here to fix what was the inevitable, which I think was grossly irresponsible."

Any changes to union contracts have to be negotiated - those discussions are ongoing.