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Lake Saint Louis Council passes budget for new fiscal year

Major stormwater and road improvements, new ball field lights at Founders Park, and as much as a 3 percent pay increase for city employees are major features of the new annual budget for Lake Saint Louis.

But a cloud remains over the city’s budget thanks to uncertainty about the status and impact of state legislation, now vetoed, that could cut into local government finances.

The Lake Saint Louis Board of Aldermen approved the city’s $10 million budget at its June 16 meeting. The new fiscal year began on July 1.

On Sept. 10, the General Assembly could override Nixon’s vetoes of the tax cut legislation, resulting in a predicted $500,000 loss in local sales revenue. Meanwhile the LSL board has until Oct. 1 to set the city’s tax rate.

The city’s general fund and debt service rates are not expected to change significantly.

The city’s current general fund tax rate is $59.51 per $100 assessed valuation and its debt service rate is 47 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

The city’s budget this year reflects an increase in funding for street, stormwater and park improvements that was approved by voters last August.

In a narrow victory, city voters approved Proposition P, a half-cent sales tax increase, by four votes – 476 votes in favor and 472 votes against. According to city officials, the resulting sales tax will generate an extra $1.3 million annually. About $900,000 per year would be used for street improvements with the rest being used for park improvements.

This is the first budget year that the city can tap into that money, which will augment other city funding for a host of street, public works and park projects.

Assistant City Administrator Eric Sterman said one major public works project will be the reconstruction of Civic Center Drive, which also will be partially funded through a federal grant.

The $1.33 million budget for the project is the largest item in the city’s public works expenditures, which total about $3.6 million in the next year.

Other proposed public works expenditures include $774,621 for asphalt overlay and $800,000 for concrete replacement of streets, $350,000 for stormwater work on Oak Terrace, $25,000 for a cul-de-sac in the Mason Glen subdivision, $40,000 for business district planning and $7,600 for painting city hall.

The major parks expenditure in the next year will be $179,531 for new ball field lights at Founders Park. The overall parks capital project budget is $420,631.

Sterman said some of the existing lights may have come from Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, the historic ballpark where the St. Louis baseball Cardinals played until Busch Stadium was built in the mid-1960s.

The old stadium was torn down but the lights may have been donated to the city, according to Sterman and other city officials. However, Sherman said city officials still are trying to authenticate that story.

“Needless to say, they (the lights) are in need of replacement,” Sterman said.

Other proposed expenditures include rebuilding a parking lot at Founders Park, improving restrooms at Founders and Boulevard Parks, installing a new entrance sign at Founders Park and $52,400 for a waterfall at Veterans Park.

The city’s 81 full-time employees also can expect a 1.6-percent cost of living pay increase along with up to a 1.4-percent average merit raise, depending on their job performance. Last year, employees received a 2-percent pay increase and a less than 1-percent merit increase.

The city is holding off on filling several part-time positions, including a code enforcement officer and a police records clerk, until the situation with the vetoed tax cut bills becomes clearer.

Sales tax provides about 30 percent of the city’s revenue.

Sterman said even though sales tax revenue is up 3 to 4 percent so far this year, the city has remained conservative with its projections, anticipating only about a half-percent increase for the year. And, while future growth is expected on land near where the final leg of the Hwy. 364 extension ties into to I-64 at Hwy. N, that growth and related tax revenue may be years away.

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