St. Louis County budget includes funding for ongoing COVID response, county staffing

St.+Louis+County+Executive+Sam+Page+speaks+to+reporters+after+voting+Aug.+4%2C+2020%2C+in+Creve+Coeur++in+the+Democratic+primary.

Photo by Erin Achenbach

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page speaks to reporters after voting Aug. 4, 2020, in Creve Coeur in the Democratic primary.

By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

The St. Louis County Council has begun the process of reviewing the multi-million-dollar 2022 budget ahead of its December approval. 

The County Council will weigh the $900 million budget over the next few weeks, before final approval by Dec. 31. 

The recommended 2022 operating budget is $693.7 million, a $29.5 million or 4.4 percent increase from 2021.

The budget provides for the necessary funding to continue COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and staffing for neighborhood health clinics, which would require an $18.5 million increase in the health fund. The recommended budget allocates American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funds to the health fund to continue funding COVID-19 response programs over the next three to four years. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on St. Louis County. The loss of life and the loss of livelihoods, particularly in traditionally underserved areas, will leave a long-lasting imprint throughout our community,” County Executive Sam Page wrote in his budget message to the County Council. “The pandemic’s financial cost to St. Louis County government is almost overwhelming. … The County will continue to incur significant expenses in 2022 and likely in future years associated with the long-term recovery from the pandemic.” 

At a press conference last week, Page said that he is asking the County Council to allocate about $85 million in ARPA funds to fill any budget gaps. 

“These actions will allow us to continue funding our editing programs and services and will allow existing funds to be redirected to targeted investments,” Page said. “The proposed financial plan will provide limited, temporary relief to the underlying imbalance between annual revenue received and the costs of providing government services to our residents.”

Page said that with federal funds likely to be exhausted by 2024, the county will be forced to identify new revenue sources.  

Other highlights of the 2022 budget include a nearly million dollar increase for the municipal courts, a $4.2 million increase for pay in the police department, half a million for a comprehensive county employee pay study, and $321,300 for the phased increase of the minimum wage for county workers.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell requested $3.2 million increase to add an additional 28 positions to the department, including 13 attorneys and 15 legal secretaries. 

Revenues from 2022 are expected to grow $12 million, or 1.6 percent, from 2020 lows.