Treasurer wants $15 minimum wage for her office, battle with Aldermanic president may be brewing

CITY HALL — St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones says “it’s only right” to raise the wage of everybody in her office to $15 an hour. But Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed says it is more right for her to share her parking revenue with the rest of the city.

Jones said employees in her office were still making the legal minimum wage of $7.35 when she took office in 2013. Since then, she has gradually increased the minimum wage paid. In 2018, she set the lowest wage at $11 an hour.

In 2015, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a law raising the minimum wage in the city to $11 an hour by 2018. But the state legislature voted in 2017 to block that change and returned it to $7.70 an hour.

The increase to $15 would affect about 100 workers and would cost about $500,000, said Benjamin Singer, a spokesman for the treasurer’s office. The minimum wage would include all departments Jones oversees: including Treasury, the Office of Financial Empowerment, and the Parking Division, which employs the largest number of workers.

“I believe that budgets are a moral document,” Jones said. That would improve service and keep workers in a tight economy, she said.

But Reed said he wouldn’t favor an effort to raise wages only for Jones’ employees in next year’s budget.

“I think we should move to $15 an hour for every city employee. One of the things that we’ll require to do that is for us to get more money out of the treasurer. She can’t do that and say ‘OK, I want to help my employees. Everybody else is on their own,’” Reed said.

“The money that she collects out of those meters, that’s city money,” Reed said. “We do it citywide, and every city employee deserves it. Not just the people in her office.”

A spokesman for Jones’ office declined to provide a response to Reed’s statement.

However, City Budget Director Paul Payne said that earlier this year, the treasurer’s office provided $10 million for a general fund balance for the city and $1.05 million for spending in the 2018-19 budget. The treasurer’s office generally provides about $1.7 million in the general fund budget.

Singer, the spokesman for Jones, said that the Parking Division of the Treasurer’s Office would have to approve the plan. Then the Board of Aldermen would also have to approve it as part of the 2019-2020 budget.

Normally, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment made up of the mayor, comptroller and board of aldermen president would have to approve any increase in the budget. But that’s not necessary, because the money for the raises would come from the parking division and not city general revenue, Singer said.

Of the idea that all city employees deserve a raise to $15 an hour, Jones said, “I can only speak for my office. If other city elected officials think it’s a good idea to do, I would support it.”

Jim Merkel

Author: Jim Merkel

Born and raised in St. Louis, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of four books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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