St. Louis County Council passes budget cut bills for 2019 fiscal year

CLAYTON, Mo. – St. Louis County Council members advanced bills last week that would cut nearly $36 million from County Executive Steve Stenger’s proposed county spending plan. According to Council Chairman Sam Page, a circuit court judge determined the actions made by the County Executive, in meddling with the County Council budget, as “unlawful.”

The five budget cut bills passed 5-1 with Councilman Pat Dolan voting against and Councilwoman Hazel Erby abstaining, once again.

“I know that there was legislation introduced tonight to give possibly a 2.8 percent raise,” Erby said. “But until we can come up with something better than that for the employees who have not received raises in the past ten years, I’m going to abstain from every part of the budget.”

Erby did note that she supports her colleagues and the work that they have done in cutting the budget. She said the budget could be cut more, in her opinion, and referred to it as being out of control.

Despite receiving comments from the St. Louis County Police Officers and representatives of the St. Louis County Police Association in regards to the necessity of two-man cars, the council passed the budget cut of $4.8 million from the St. Louis County Police Department.

According to Page, the council was provided with information by the Budget Office which indicated that there 100 vacancies within the police department. Page also said the police department returned “several million dollars at the end of every year.”

Based on the information the council has been given, they are funding the police department with what the department has demonstrated they can spend.

“Should they demonstrate that they can hire more police officers, we will certainly give them police officers,” Page said. “There’s unanimous support on the county council for two-man cars and we hope we can help the police officers reach that goal.”

Proposition P funds will be used to support those positions when it is time for them to be filled.

The parks and health departments have been asked by the council to live within the same budget that they had for the 2018 fiscal year, spending the same for next year as they did for this year. Page said neither of the departments came to the council requesting supplemental appropriations in 2018.

If Stenger decides to veto the bills that were passed Tuesday night, the council will come back at the first week of 2019 to take another vote. Page said he expects the veto to be overridden. However, if there is a veto and the council members cannot agree on the budget, the county will then operate at its 2018 spending level on a month-to-month basis, per charter.