Port Allen mayor’s new pay hike depleting 2 budget funds

Two operating funds in the city’s 2012 budget are headed for a $20,000 shortfall due to a pay raise newly seated Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter implemented upon taking office in January, Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain said.

McCain said Monday the mayor’s salary was reduced from $84,960 annually to $65,000 when the City Council approved its fiscal year 2012-13 budget in June.

The mayor’s salary is funded by revenues taken from the municipal water and gas fund as well as the general fund.

“There’s not enough money to pay this,” McCain said. “There has been a discussion and this info has been shared with the mayor.”

McCain said she anticipates money available in the two accounts used to pay Slaughter’s salary will be depleted by early May.

McCain said the City Council will need to approve several budget adjustments in order to avert the impending deficit.

“Right now there is money in the account, so there’s no monumental reason to hurry,” McCain said. “We just need to take care of this before the end of the fiscal year.”

McCain said that because the mayor’s salary could not be reduced in midterm, former Mayor Roger Bergeron had proposed leaving his annual salary at $84,000 for the first six months of the 2012-13 fiscal year, until his term ended on Dec. 31, 2012.

McCain said the budget calls for the mayor’s salary to drop to $65,000 annually during the remaining six months of the 2012-13 fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

Bergeron, McCain said, “wanted to lower it because he thought $85,000 was too much. He looked at other cities about our size to see what their mayors made. He considered all things in determining what he thought was a fair and reasonable number. They all talked about it.”

Slaughter, who defeated Bergeron in the Dec. 8, 2012, election, said Tuesday if adjustments are needed to keep the city’s budget balanced, she will raise the issue with the City Council.

“I was under the impression that everything was already taken care of,” Slaughter said.

City Attorney Victor Woods on Tuesday disputed McCain’s assertion that the mayor increased her pay after taking office.

Woods said Slaughter never raised her salary by some $20,000 a year because the previous administration and the City Council had never properly reduced the mayor’s rate of pay.

Woods said in a legal opinion addressed to Slaughter on Jan. 8 that the former mayor submitted a proposed 2012-13 budget to the council on June 13, 2012, which included the $20,000 reduction in the mayor’s salary.

But Woods said he advised city leaders at the time the mayor’s salary couldn’t be lowered just by adopting a new budget.

Woods’ Jan. 8 letter to Slaughter on the pay issue said the City Council could not reduce an elected official’s salary unless there is an “affirmative vote specifically” on the proposed pay reduction.

“There was no specific ordinance presented or specific vote by the legislative body to reduce the salary of the mayor,” Woods wrote. “As of this date, no such vote or ordinance has been proposed or passed.”

Woods, citing a 2002 ruling in the Rogers v. Town of Arcadia lawsuit, said Slaughter’s rate of pay had to equal Bergeron’s, since Bergeron’s annual pay actually never had been reduced.

“You can’t lower it the way they did,” Woods said. “So there wasn’t a raising or lowering of her salary because it stayed the same.”