CLAYTON, Mo. (KMOV.com) - The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on all parts of our community, including the St. Louis County budget.
"The pandemic's financial cost to St. Louis County government is almost overwhelming," wrote County Executive Sam Page to the county council. "The pandemic cost County government over $85.9 million in lost revenue in 2020.
According to the more than 300-page document, the recommended 2022 operating budget is $693.7 million, an increase of $29.5 million from 2021.
Much of the budget proposal deals with health and public safety, with funding for COVID-19 testing, vaccines and salary increases for employees, and raises for police officers. It calls for an additional $3.2 million for Prosecutor Wesley Bell's office to add 28 positions.
"As St. Louis County has transitioned from more of a suburban county to an urban county, that does mean crime unfortunately. We need to be able to meet that challenge," said Bell.
His office is dealing with a massive backlog of cases due to the pandemic, with the average attorney in his office handling a caseload of 294 cases.
"That's not manageable long term," explained Bell, who said hiring additional attorneys and assistants would help them bring justice quicker to the community.
Page is asking County Council to use funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to help pay for the budget and offset revenue losses. The problem is that money is one-time funding, and using it to pay for reoccurring expenses like salaries is a concern, said a spokesperson for the county, and it will likely be a feature of the debate over this budget. That means it could call for raising taxes in years to come to maintain funding.
The County Council reviewed the budget Tuesday and there will be several more hearings as they negotiate. The council must vote on the budget before it is approved.