Trakas calls St. Louis County budget “anything but random”

CLAYTON, Mo. – For many residents and workers, it can appear that the St. Louis County Council went through the proposed budget plan, cutting departments at random. However, Councilman Ernie Trakas assures the county that that is not the case at all.

According to Trakas, the budget cuts and resolutions were made after a very “studious” review of every account and fund. Trakas explained that the council looked at the budget’s history and had multiple hearings before making decisions on what to cut “without breaking anything.”

“The budget is anything but random,” Trakas said.

Council members focused on the funds that were absolutely needed such as the general and health savings, meaning that some funds and divisions were never cut. Trakas reiterated that the council worked to make sure that the cuts they were making would not break anything.

For many departments, their funds are being based on the previous year’s plan. The council asked that the departments operate within the means they were given for the 2018 year and continue with the same amount for the 2019 year. However, if departments feel that they are in need of additional funding, they have been advised to come before the council and request supplemental appropriation.

“The council will consider based on needs of funding and available revenue,” Trakas said. “[They] will live within the means rather than operate in a deficit of $6 million. If [we] used what was recommended by the County Executive…it would be reckless of the council to use.”

Trakas explained that the council is wanting to “reserve amounts” to help impact rates in 2020. He assured that the council’s budget cuts will not break departments. The 2019 fiscal budget reflects similarly to the previous year’s budget, in terms of the spending level.

“The cuts requested in the budget help to avoid deficit spending,” Trakas said. “This way the county is not spending more than revenue is bringing in.”

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Council Chairman Sam Page said if County Executive Steve Stenger decided to veto the budget bills the council passed, then councilmembers would come back at the beginning for the 2019 year to take another vote. Page was confident that the council would re-vote in favor, overriding Stenger’s veto. However, on Thursday, Stenger reported that he will not be vetoing the council’s budget.

“[Stenger said] he doesn’t have the authority to veto the budget once it is passed,” Trakas said.

With the County Executive not vetoing against the bills, the county will operate on the same spending level from 2018, as Trakas explained. The council will have its first meeting of 2019 on January 3rd at 6:30 pm in the Council Chambers.