During the last Budget battle, City departments were told to slash payroll and did. This was done by new retirements and not filling old vacancies. Most everyone slashed payroll except Mayor Lyda Krewson. Her office got additional staff and more money.
Now, as it turns out, the Mayor doesn’t have to give up office staff to make a personal cost cutting choice.
St. Louis City is both a City and its own County. Like any other County in Missouri, we have elected or appointed offices performing county duties by state law- Assessor, Circuit Court Clerk, Collector of Revenue, Coroner/Medical Examiner, Prosecuting Attorney/Circuit Attorney, Public Administrator, Recorder of Deeds, Sheriff, and Treasurer.
We also have a License Collector and some other anomalies. Our County Recorder is also our City Vital Records Registrar. Our County Treasurer is also our City Treasurer and Parking Czar. Our City Comptroller is also our County Auditor. Our City Board of Aldermen and Board of Estimate and Apportionment are our County Commission/Council. Our Mayor is our County Executive. Our City Register is our County Clerk.
You can find our County offices on Page 772 of the 2015-2016 Missouri State Manual.
Our City Register/County Clerk is keeper of various records but, unlike, most other County Clerks, is not our Election Authority. Here, we do not run our own elections. The Governor appoints a Board of Election Commissioners to oversee our elections. Governor controls. We pay the bills. Local control via an elected Register/County Clerk would be better. But Rex Sinquefiled, the man who bought local control of the Police Department for St. Louis, doesn’t seem to be interested in empowering us to run our own elections.
With no reason to believe the Legislature is going to do St. Louis City any favors, and no sugar daddy to fund a ballot issue to force the state to return control of elections to us, we are pretty much free to consolidate the City Register with another office.
The City Register is a records center. Who else is in the public records business at City Hall? The Recorder of Deeds & Vital Records Registrar and City Comptroller. Either one of the offices would make good places to consolidate the Register.
How does this save money? The Register is a mayoral appointee. If you combine the office with another office and make the elected Recorder or Comptroller also the Register, you free up the salary of the previous mayoral patronage job. Comptroller would become Comptroller and Register. Or Recorder becomes Recorder of Deeds, Vital Records Registrar, and City Register.
That’s not to say the City Register does not put in a day’s work for a day’s pay. But by consolidating a three person office into a larger office, one where employees are cross trained to perform numerous functions and fill in when needed, cutting that appointee salary could be done.
What would be necessary to make this change? A charter amendment removing the Register from the list of mayoral appointees and giving the Comptroller or Recorder the title of Register. Pretty sure voters would approve such an amendment and appreciate the opportunity to vote on something to cut a cost as opposed to raising a tax.
Mayor Krewson was in the reform camp as a alderwoman. Here’s a reform waiting for her to take the lead on.
In fact, the Mayor could do it tomorrow without a charter amendment. She could appoint the Comptroller or Recorder as Register in the interim until a charter amendment could be passed.
Far fetched? Not really. It was considered by Mayor Francis Slay early in his first term. He had worked to consolidate Vital Records with the Recorder of Deeds and was interested in also consolidating the Register with Recorder.
Does getting rid of one salary save a lot of money? No.
But is there a good reason to keep the Register a mayoral appointee? No.
Go ahead. Ask the Mayor. There’s no checks and balances rationale for maintaining this post as a reward to a supporter.
And if the Mayor doesn’t lead on this, then, hopefully, someone at the Board of Aldermen will.
— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman