Police overtime pay strains St. Louis budget

St. Louis is spending roughly $1.3 million per month on overtime pay for its police force, a “staggering” number city leaders hope they can soon slash.

If such spending continues, the city would more than double the $7 million it had budgeted for police overtime costs for the year.

Supporters of a sales tax increase for public safety, including Mayor Lyda Krewson, say it could provide relief for overburdened officers by luring more to St. Louis and ensuring higher salaries as an incentive to stay.

The city’s overtime woes come as neighboring St. Louis County plans to boost its police pay. A voter-approved, half-cent sales tax is expected to provide about $80 million a year to St. Louis County and its individual municipalities for public safety. On Thursday, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger announced that county police officers would receive one-time raises averaging 30 percent next year.

Fears persist that the city’s police officers will flock to the county, where they could be paid more money to do what many consider to be a less dangerous job. Officials say the St. Louis police are overwhelmed and overspending on overtime because they’re short more than 100 officers.

Krewson and Interim St. Louis Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole on Thursday called on the board to consider the same sales tax increase the county passed in April.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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