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St. Louis City Hall

The exterior of the St. Louis City Hall as seen on Tuesday, May 28, 2013. Photo By David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — The Board of Aldermen on Friday approved a $1.15 billion city budget that increases spending on demolition of derelict buildings and housing assistance programs.

The city’s spending plan for the next 12 months also includes money to continue operating the St. Louis Medium Security Institution on Hall Street, informally known as the city workhouse, despite an ongoing campaign by activists to get it shut down.

The fiscal year 2020 budget, which begins Monday, was passed on a 20-5 vote. That followed approval earlier this month by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, the city’s top fiscal body.

Included is about $4.2 million for building demolitions, an increase of $625,000 over this year’s total.

About $6.6 million will go to programs aided by the city’s affordable housing fund, up by more than $1 million.

The affordable housing fund awards grants and loans to develop new homes and apartments and to help lower-income residents with repairs and rent, mortgage or utility payments. The fund also assists services for the homeless.

The budget also includes $500,000 to begin a crime prevention program such as Cure Violence, which treats crime like a public health issue.

Aldermanic President Lewis Reed said the budget “focuses on reducing crime, helping build up our neighborhoods, providing resources to our most vulnerable populations and more.”

The budget, which represents an overall increase in spending of 3%, contains no major cuts to city programs. Most civil service employees — except police and firefighters — will get pay raises of 1.5%. Police and firefighters, depending on their years of service, will get increases ranging from more than 5% to less than 1%.

Alderman Megan Green, D-15th Ward, cited the $16 million provided for the workhouse as among the reasons she voted against the budget.

She predicted that a recent federal court order requiring state courts to consider poverty when setting bail would reduce inmate counts and eventually spur city leaders to close the workhouse. The order has been appealed.

“That’s going to put us on a path where very soon it’s going to become financially irresponsible for us to keep this open, in addition to it being inhumane,” Green said.

City public safety officials say while the workhouse is old, allegations about substandard conditions there are out of date. They also say that almost all inmates in city jails are being held for violent crimes and should be locked up while awaiting trial.

Green also said the budget didn’t go far enough in dealing with what she called “an affordable housing crisis” in the city.

Another “no” voter, Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, said even more money should have been assigned to razing derelict buildings.

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Mark Schlinkmann is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.