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Work on 2011 city budget starts Wednesday

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – Three of the city's top elected officials will start public hearings Wednesday on their plans to deal with St. Louis' $46 million budget deficit.

The members of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment - Mayor Francis Slay, Comptroller Darlene Green, and Board of Aldermen president Lewis Reed - will develop a draft budget that aldermen will work from.

The three agree that thee are limited options to balance a budget that Reed said "isn't pretty."

"There will have to be cuts, staffing cuts, there'll have to be hiring freezes, we'll have to find new sources of revenue," he said.

Complicating matters, Reed said, is the $75 million the city must pay into its pension funds.

""So that brings us down to about $380 million to find the $46 million budget shortfall out of, he said. "We need to continue to have negotiations with the unions in relation to the pension systems. Hopefully we'll see employee contributions into the systems."

Reed says the Board of Aldermen also needs to consider ending the city's sick-leave buyback program, but said unions are not to blame for negotiating generous contracts and pay raises in good faith when city coffers were fuller.

The budget will likely propose a nominal fee for trash pick-up, Reed said. Residents at three public hearings he hosted last month suggested a fee for registering bicycles and increasing the cost of registering a pet. But across-the-board tax increases are off the table - at least for this year.