ST. LOUIS – City workers will have to forego their promised raises, but they should be able to keep their jobs.
In Mayor Lyda Krewson’s livestreamed Facebook news conference Wednesday, she gave listeners tough news about the city’s funding for the end of this fiscal year – through the end of June – and for fiscal year 2021, which begins in July.
“Bottom line: This budget is extremely sobering,” Krewson acknowledged. “We are looking at $30 million down in this year … and we’re looking at close to $40 million down next year.”
The city is required by law to have a balanced budget, so cuts have to be made.
The financial situation is “the worst that we can ever remember having in this city,” she warned. So the promised 3 percent raises for city employees won’t be happening, nor will the normal city raise of 1.5 percent.
“We’re trying to keep people employed,” Krewson explained. She said the city had 6,607 positions, 750 of which are currently vacant.
Almost 150 of those vacant jobs are for police, and the mayor said those needed to be filled. Homicides, she noted, re running above this time last year: 46 so far this year versus 38 on the same day in 2019.
Other employees who provide services for residents have to be kept on. These include firefighters, water service workers, trash and cleaning workers, public health employees, emergency medical technicians and dispatchers, and airport staff.
“We are trying not to lay anyone off,” she reiterated.
Instead, the city has already cut capital expenditures for many projects, she said. It has cut ward capital and taken money from special funds to put into the general fund.
The Board of Estimate and Apportionment will hold a public meeting Friday via Zoom on the proposed budget. The plan can been read on the city’s website on the budget division’s page.
Krewson reported on the latest coronavirus statistics. As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, the city had 924 confirmed cases, with 42 deaths; St. Louis County had 2,417 cases, with 96 deaths; and Missouri as a whole, 6,137 cases and 208 deaths.
She said that Dr. Alex Garza, head of the pandemic task force, reported that at 3 p.m. Wednesday, 685 people were hospitalized with coronavirus, down 65 from Tuesday. Almost 200 patients were in the ICU and 133 of those were on ventilators – “a very, very serious situation,” Krewson emphasized.
A listener mentioned that Franklin County was relaxing social distancing restrictions this week and asked how we are protected if those residents can travel freely into St. Louis.
“We’re really not,” Krewson said bluntly. She pointed out that we are a “mobile, fluid society” and stressed that the best protection was to maintain social distancing; wear a face mask, even at work; and wash hands often. “Be very vigilant about those protections,” she advised.
In answer to questions about how St. Louis will step back its regulations, Krewson said, “We’re making every effort to ease what we can without causing another spike in COVID-19.”
The basic question, she said, is: “Would you be comfortable right now going back to your favorite restaurant? … Under what conditions?
“We all have to think very long and seriously about that.”