Council recommends wage increase for civil service
The proposed increase will be available to all employees in the department and will be added to any approved cost of living and merit raises. The move would cost an estimated $1.2 million this year and would increase by an additional $110,000 in each of the following years. Because the council decided against a tax decrease, the additional $1.9 million in property tax they will receive should help cover the costs.
"Since Katrina, the civil service department is short on employees," said Councilman Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux, who introduced the resolution. "We need to do this for retention purposes and to attract more employees. We rolled the tax forward, so let’s use this money to supplement those employees."
Though the resolution passed by an 8-1 vote, the topic drew heated debate during last week's council meeting. Councilman Ganesier "Ram" Ramchandran was by far the most outspoken opponent of the resolution, though he eventually ended up voting in favor of it.
"Giving raises should be left to the parish president and the department heads and I think we are jumping the gun," Ramchandran said. "I know that the market is difficult now, and I understand the spirit of it, but this comes across as an election stunt. The council should not do anything to handicap the administration."
However, a majority of the council members agreed that the move was necessary.
"We should pay them much more," Councilman Derryl Walls said. "I think it's ridiculous that they work for the amount they are getting paid now. We need to step up to the plate and take care of these people."
Besides rewarding employees for their hard work, the resolution will also allow the department to hire more employees. Right now, Parish President Albert Laque told the council that the civil service sector is short by 40 to 50 people. The increased salaries should help the civil service board fill those positions.
"We can't compete with private industry right now," Richard Duhe said. "We owe it to the people to try to pay them more so they can take care of their families."
Brian Fabre echoed those sentiments.
"This is something we need to do for these employees because of the hard work they do," he said.
But Barry Minnich, who was the council's lone dissenting vote, felt more research should have gone into exactly how the increase will affect other sectors of the government.
"It is our responsibility to look at its impact on our budget farther down the line," he said. "I want to know what that is going to be."
Though the resolution was passed, the final decision will come from Laque, who said that while it is his job to determine the pay raise, he was glad the council voted on it to "help him make his decision."
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