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Quote Me, Howie: Kevin Gray

Administrator Kevin Gray on St. Louis County’s 2022 budget and continuing COVID response:

“Thanks for the opportunity to discuss the recently passed 2022 St. Louis County budget that totals $463 million to deliver services to our residents. Much of what we do is state-mandated, but our focus is always on identifying and meeting needs across the county while being respectful of the use of taxpayer funds.

The 2022 budget reflects funding to support health and human services, public safety, general government services and more. Another larger area of investment is in public works infrastructure – $63 million in roads and bridges, plus additional funds to upgrade and modernize our fleet of public works vehicles, along with the consolidation of five older garages into three larger, more modern facilities that will better serve our residents and employees while providing space for the larger vehicles of today. The budget also acknowledges salary and benefit commitments and incorporates new staff positions in mental health and planning and community development.

To your question regarding COVID impacts, it’s been extra challenging – as many businesses and individuals can relate – to do this while also dealing with the pandemic. The county has a unique role as the local public health authority, and it continues to be all hands on deck as we work with area health care partners, schools and municipalities, and especially to reach out to at risk populations to ensure no one slips through the cracks. We’ve continued to adapt as needs have evolved during the pandemic. At the beginning of the year, we pulled in all resources to offer vaccinations. In the last year, St. Louis County Public Health administered more than 45,000 doses! By summer, as the case rate dropped, we were able to redirect some staff to more traditional public health roles, while continuing smaller scale vaccine clinics. By fall we hustled to ramp up more COVID testing options while again increasing vaccination clinics, and then adding in boosters. I just can’t say enough about how proud I am of our staff who continue to go above and beyond to make all this happen.

Back to the budget: it also reflects $27 million in federal ARPA funds to address COVID needs and impacts. We have identified public health efforts, clean water initiatives at the St. Louis County regional landfill, mental health supports, broadband, and county operational needs among other eligible uses as the key initial focus areas. Notably, we’ve committed $5.2 million to area schools for the Check and Connect program to hire mentors to engage with students who are struggling after the challenges, including distance learning, that they’ve faced.

I am grateful to our Board for recognizing these needs and empowering staff to think outside the box to find solutions. We can’t do this alone, but our staff has developed great community partnerships to identify needs and how best to respond. We really do have a strong team working to serve the citizens of St. Louis County and I’m proud and humbled to be part of it.

Thanks again, Howie, for the opportunity to share this information with your readers. Our citizens are key to driving budget outcomes and helping inform our financial and program priorities. We appreciate their input, as well as the strength they’ve continued to show during these pandemic times.”

FYI: St. Louis County board approves $463 million budget for 2022

Published in Quote Me, Howie St. Louis County

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