St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger on Wednesday used an executive order to reduce $500,000 in spending that the St. Louis County Council approved late last year.
The appropriation that’s being reduced was a $500,000 increase to the St. Louis County Council’s own budget.
Stenger announced the change on KMOX’s Mark Reardon show, stating that he had the authority under the county charter to move line-item spending and that he was moving the money back into reserve accounts.
Because of this, Stenger said, the County Council would not be able to block the money transfer into the county’s reserve accounts.
Stenger stated it was unfair for the council to raise its own budget while it simultaneously cuts $31 million within the county.
“It really is a matter of fairness and I think that the council should be held at the same standard of the rest of county government,” Stenger said. “It was odd to see them cut across the board and then give themselves such an increase. They increased by three times as much as they cut.”
During the budget process in December, the St. Louis County Council voted to reduce $31 million from Stenger’s budget proposal.
Stenger stated this reduction hurts the county because it took away some public safety funding.
“We need to look at the priorities for our county and they cut the prosecuting attorney’s budget by about $345,000. Public safety is on top of everyone’s agenda, it’s in all of our voters’ minds and they cut one of the chief ways that we achieve public safety,” he said. “They cut while they increase their own budget. That’s demonstrative of the lack of return that we would experience from giving limited resources to the county council while we took away limited resources from our public safety apparatus.”
One of the county executive’s staunchest critics, Councilman Sam Page, argued that Stenger’s executive order was a political stunt and one without merit.
Page also added that the county executive’s own budget would set the county on a path to raise taxes.
“Stenger’s budget increased spending, depleted our reserves, and set us on a course of raising taxes. Not what taxpayers would expect from a CPA,” Page said in a written statement. “The council adopted spending freeze to protect taxpayers from future tax increases or future cuts in services, preserve our bond rating and protect our reserves. The Council has done their job not it’s time for Stenger to do his.”
In addition, Page claimed that Stenger’s poor management demanded the council’s action and that it was the County Council’s duty to safeguard taxpayer dollars within the county.
Even though there have been constant disagreements between the County Council and himself, Stenger said there’s plenty of positive things that they have achieved together such as Proposition P and the prescription drug monitoring program for example.
“We’re going to see some of this great economic development that we’ve all been able to work together on, both the council and the county executive,” he said. “Four billion dollars worth of investment over the last 18 months, close to 6,000 jobs created, 21,000 jobs retained. We’ve done quite well, and we’ve done quite well together quite frankly and we’ve had some disagreements but what I think those disagreements brought were some really good things.”