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St. Louis police budget includes furloughs, salary freezes

By Rachel Lippmann

St. Louis – Civilian employees will be furloughed for up to 10 days and officers will not get raises unless they are promoted under a budget approved Wednesday by the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners.

Police chief Dan Isom told a packed board room that the cuts enable the department to close a $5 million deficit without taking officers off the streets. Employees will also pay higher deductibles on their health insurance, and tuition assistance will be limited only to those officers looking to get bachelor's degrees.

"I'm sure the changes will impact morale," Isom said. "No one likes it. I don't like it, the employees don't like it, no one in the community is happy about it, but I think we the best of a terrible situation."

Isom led a committee of civilian and sworn officer representatives that came up with the proposals. That committee approved the changes unanimously, as did the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners.

"There were no easy decisions. There were no good decisions. But at a time when we're facing increasing pension costs and lower dollars coming in, I think we've done a pretty good job," board president Todd Epsten said, commending negotiators for working together toward a deal.

Isom said that committee will remain in place to consider ways to bring down increasing pension costs, which jumped by $3 million this year.

The department will also no longer pay for its officers to do traffic control at events like Cardinals games and shows at the Fox Theatre. Those venues could pay off-duty officers at the overtime rate, which is about $26 an hour. Non-profit events like Fair St. Louis or the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure would not have to pay for traffic control.