ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–St. Louis Firefighters dodge layoffs — at least for another week — as the city’s finance board delays voting on a plan to slash 49 positions, including 30 that are currently filled.
The delay comes as Congressman Russ Carnahan told KMOX news earlier that a $3.2 million federal grant for the fire department may be announced “in a matter of weeks.”
But Budget Director Paul Payne warned the finance board of Estimate and Apportionment that even the federal grant wouldn’t address “the elephant in the room,” — rising pension costs.
Payne says the city fire department budget is over $2 million in the hole this year, and expected to face budget shortfalls of $5 million in the fiscal year that starts in July. The proposed job cuts would achieve some $622,000 in savings.
Some St. Louis Firefighters brought their young children to the meeting to show those voting that families are involved. Little girls with coloring books sat on the rug behind Mayor Slay, as the debate raged.
Comptroller Darlene Green urged the firefighters to take time off without pay as a way to avoid layoffs.
“The choice of furloughs are on the table,” Green said, “I’m taking a furlough. The Mayor’s taking a furlough. Everybody at this table is taking a furlough.”
Mayor Slay told the group he is willing to consider the furlough option, but warned it may run into legal challenges from the city charter and federal law.
The third member of the finance board, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, expressed hope that a compromise can be worked out before the vote next Friday.