County Council OKs $498.8 million budget

Staff Report

A 2010 county budget totaling roughly $498.8 million was approved last week by the County Council.

Councilmen gave their approval Dec. 15 to 18 bills relating to the county’s 2010 budget, which totals $498,796,706.

That amount is roughly $9.1 million less than the 2009 adjusted budget of $507,925,477.

Next year’s budget extends the pay freeze the administration imposed on county employees in 2009.

But County Executive Charlie Dooley indicated in his 2010 budget message the situation could be worse.

“Unlike budgets of many local and state governments at this time, my proposed budget does not require layoffs, furloughs or pay reductions, and it does not eliminate services,” Dooley wrote.

Noting the 2010 budget doesn’t call for a property tax-rate increase — retaining the current rate of 52.3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation — Dooley stated, “Unlike many taxing districts, I have not proposed a tax-rate ‘roll-up’ to generate the same amount of property-tax revenue as the county received prior to the 2009 reassessment.

“Instead, I have made difficult decisions in this budget to continue to provide essential services while maintaining the county’s strong financial condition,” Dooley added.

The county executive anticipates 2010 general fund revenues to increase by $2.3 million over 2009 estimates.

Part of that increase stems from Pinnacle Entertainment’s River City Casino in Lemay, which will generate at least $6.8 million in new revenue when it opens next March, Dooley stated.

The county will re-evaluate its projected revenues and appropriations from River City once the facility is fully operational, he added.

While county employees will continue to see a pay freeze in 2010, employee health insurance costs to the county are expected to increase 6 percent next year, the county executive noted.

In addition, the county’s required contribution to the employee retirement plan is budgeted to increase by more than 9 percent, he stated.

Decreased collections from a quarter-cent transit sales tax will result in an 8.3-percent drop in the county’s appropriation to the Metro transit agency in 2010.

The transit agency is slated to receive roughly $37.9 million from the county next year, down from a budgeted $41.3 million in 2009.

Seventh District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, voted last week against ordinances establishing the county’s 2010 property tax rate; general revenue fund budget; special road and bridge fund budget; health fund budget; park maintenance fund budget; and solid waste management fund budget.

Third District Councilman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, voted against establishing the county’s 2010 health fund budget.

Noting 2010 general revenue fund expenditures are projected to exceed revenues, Quinn said he believes county residents expect their government to live within its means, “which is what they have to do.”

“We should follow their example and tighten our belts,” he said.