10 percent raise finally passes
Even though debate grows heated, measure approved 5-2
The 13 percent pay increase will be included on the next pay period for the parish civil service workers, but non civil service workers will not get a pay increase.
Councilman Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux proposed the raises on Sept. 4 and it was called an election ploy by some critics.
"I haven't won anything,” Faucheux said. “If it was an election ploy when I was at the debate or running my campaign, I would have said to vote for me and I will get you a pay raise.”
The pay increase will cost the parish $1.2 million, but $233,000 was amended into the budget to start the raises on the next 2007 pay period.
"The reason that I didn't include the other non-civil service workers in my proposal is because most of these directors of these other departments within the parish have avenues and resources to put funds in their budgets to give workers a raise,” Faucheux said. “The largest labor organization is the civil service and it's the hardest to address. Mr. Laque did not put the raise in for the last two years for civil service workers; he gave them a stipend last year."
Faucheux said Laque didn't know if the revenue was going to hold.
"I understand why he did that, we have the $1.9 the budget increased by not rolling back the taxes, but the 1.2 million is there," he said.
Faucheux said public works people are the ones that need to be addressed.
Councilman Desmond Hilaire asked for a motion to include a grand total of $1.9 million dollars for the non civil service workers, but the motion failed.
"We do have other employees in this parish and I think we should consider them as well," he said.
Ever since the majority of the council recommended that Parish President Albert Laque look into approving the measure, parish administrators had been flooded with calls from both civil service and non civil service employees who asked whether or not they would get the pay increase.
Lorrie Toups, director of finance, passed out a form detailing the cost that included numbers for giving everyone a raise parish-wide.
"If you noticed on the table we looked at all employees just to get an idea of what it would require to include them," Toups said. "The council could have decided to go this route."
Toups said the workers on that list are paid through federal funds and there workers can be given a raise at any time, unlike civil service employees who are maxed out after so many years because of strict pay scale guidelines.
After seven to nine years of employment, some parish employees are maxed out with the civil service and only receive a cost of living raise based on the consumer price index.
"The bottom of the rung employees can not live with this pay increase of 10 percent, it's not enough, we need more money to attract the young people, we're not doing that," Councilman “Ram” Ramachandran. "We can't do seasonally something, it is high time we put the whole monkey on the back of the parish president, the new one or whoever is coming in. It's his monkey to carry, not the council's, there's no free lunch fellows, it's high time we roll back the taxes and be more responsible and I for one can't support this budget or this raise."
Ramachandran explained that the lowest paid parish employees and those that have their salaries frozen because they've reached the maximum amount of money they are eligible for within their civil service pay grade are the employees who should be getting a raise.
"We should give the lowest paid workers a 25 percent pay raise, period," he said. "That way we can attract young people to come and work for the parish and the ones whose salaries are frozen haven't gotten a raise in years, so they deserve one too."
However, for the last two years, Toups says the civil service employees did not get a merit raise.
"In 2006 they got a one time pay adjustment of two percent and in 2007 employees got a one time pay adjustment of $1, 000," she said. "This pay increase is good for them."
Councilwoman April Black wants to look at having higher income at the bottom for parish workers, instead of giving merit raises.
"We're 47 workers short in public works, so we can't get our ditches cleaned, and other much needed services," she said.
"Jefferson Parish increased their civil service pay scale to about 25 to 30 percent for its civil service workers to keep them after Hurricane Katrina," Toups said. "Some of my employees haven't received a raise in 10 years, because they've reached the max on the civil service pay scale.”
Toups said the workers wage increase is based on the consumer price index for this year, which is 2.6 percent. However, Laque chose to give 3 percent raises.
"It's only slightly above the national index but every little bit helps," she said. "For newly married or young people graduating high school working for the parish, they are at the bottom of the pay scale. While they do get excellent benefits, I'm sure they'd prefer having the pay increase due to the high cost of gas and other things."
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