The SouthSider

3 percent raises for civil service workers get initial approval

CITY HALL – Flush with cash, the city soon may double the amount of raises it gives to its civil service workers. 

In past years, St. Louis gave merit raises of 1.5 percent. But with revenues increasing, the city is preparing to give $1,000 bonuses to civil service workers this fiscal year and 3 percent raises in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 fiscal years.

The Board of Aldermen gave initial approval on Friday to a bill that would give those raises. 

The bill’s sponsor, 14th Ward Alderwoman Carol Howard, told the Board of Aldermen that the 1.5 percent raises hadn’t kept up with inflation.

The bonuses and raises would cost the city $4.9 million this fiscal year, $6.7 million in 2020-2021 and $13.6 million in 2021-2022, or more than $25 million in all.

City Budget Director Paul Payne said that the extra money came from a strong fourth quarter in the 2018-2019 fiscal year and a better-than-expected first half of the year. 

“It’s tracking bigger than expected through the first half of this fiscal year,” Payne said. But he wouldn’t speculate on the total the city might bring in.

Howard said the city had been collecting more earnings taxes, among other things. 

Civil service workers employed on March 29 would receive the bonuses.

“This is very, very much needed, because we’re having a hard time retaining and keeping competent employees,” Howard said. “I think it’s time that we reward our employees that have served us well through the good and the bad times.”

Eighteenth Ward Alderman Jesse Todd said the money also could be used for some other needs.

“I do think the employees deserve a raise,” Todd said. “At the same time, I think some of that money should go to the community for services that are lacking. In my ward, we have buildings that can be saved, that can be boarded up from the first floor all the way up. These buildings can be saved.”

Todd said it was time to spend money on the homeless, on those in poverty, on those who have nothing, on the hungry and on those who don’t have medical care.

“If we have anything left, it should go for raises,” Todd said.

First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus spoke favorably about the raises but made a suggestion about how to find more workers to fill vacancies.

“We have permanent seasonal workers that come back every year,” Tyus said. “It makes sense that before we look for anybody else, we would offer those seasonal workers full-time jobs. Our charter requires that.” 

Howard said some of the extra money for bonuses and raises came from positions’ not being filled.

“It’s the best we can do at this time to stay within the budget and not break the bank,” said Howard, who is the chair of the Board of Aldermen’s Public Employees Committee.

“We call on them for all kinds of things, and I think that they well deserve this increase,” Howard said. 

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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