DONALDSONVILLE — The Ascension Parish Council granted final backing Thursday on a 33 percent pay increase for themselves and rejected a push to allow voters to decide on the increase and delay its effect until the next council term begins.
Approved on a 7-3 vote, the increase will boost the pay of the recently seated 11-member council from $1,200 to $1,600 per month and take effect this year, the first raise for the body since 1997.
The increase makes the council one of three governing bodies in the nine-parish Baton Rouge metro area to earn at least that much before taxes. The others are the St. Helena Parish Police Jury and the Baton Rouge Metro Council.
Before the raise motion passed, a substitute motion to hold an election on the raise on Nov. 6 and delay when it would take effect until Jan. 1, 2016, when the next council assumes office, failed on a 3-7 vote.
Voting for the increase were Council members Teri Casso, Randy Clouatre, Dempsey Lambert, Benny Johnson, Oliver Joseph, Kent Schexnaydre and Travis Turner. Voting against the increase were Councilmen Todd Lambert, Bryan Melancon and Daniel “Doc” Satterlee.
Votes for the earlier substitute motion were the reverse of the vote for the raise, with Councilmen Todd Lambert, Melancon and Satterlee for it and the others voting against.
Councilman Chris Loar did not vote on either item as chairman.
The pay increase proposal drew no public comment Thursday during a lightly attended meeting at the Parish Courthouse in Donaldsonville but sparked council divisions seen last month when the proposal was introduced.
Melancon proposed voter backing of the raise and delay of its effect until 2016.
Melancon, who started his first term in January, said residents told him the council has been in office four months and members knew what the pay was when they ran. He said residents also told him they did not like that the council could vote for its own raise.
“And the thing about it is most of them have said, ‘We may support it, but the fact that you are going to take that on yourself and vote for yourself ...’ it just doesn’t sit well with very many people,” he said.
Councilman Oliver Joseph, who was assigned the job of researching the issue, said he disagreed with an election because the home rule charter says the council has the right to vote on the raise.
He said the council asked the public to make other changes to the charter a few years ago and they did not go so far.
The items failed at the ballot, though none dealt with council pay.
Joseph, who is starting his second term, also asserted that a council pay increase was discussed at the start of the prior council term but did not happen.
“We tabled that the last four years, so you know, here we are four more years and we have another recommendation to table it for another four years. I disagree with that, and I am in favor of this raise,” he said.
Councilman Kent Schexnaydre voiced support for the increase, citing the 15 years that had passed since the last increase.
Satterlee and Todd Lambert also spoke against voting for the raise and supported holding an election instead.
Changes allowing council reimbursement for taxis and other ground transportation when members travel on council business also passed without opposition.
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