Utilities director gets $100,000 raise
LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Thursday approved a budget for next year that gives a 3.5 percent raise to employees plus a 10 percent salary hike for council members and significant raises for many department directors, including a $100,000 boost for the head of the city-owned utility system.
The council has been reviewing City-Parish President Joey Durel’s proposed budget during hearings over the past two months, but many of the changes for higher salaries were made at the last minute Thursday as the council prepared to adopt the spending plan.
Durel’s budget had included a pay raise of 2.5 percent for city-parish government’s roughly 2,260 employees, who have not seen a raise for the past two budget years.
Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux proposed during earlier budget hearings to bump that raise up to 3 percent — an increase that Durel initially had questioned.
The debate over the raise took a turn this week when the Lafayette Parish Assessor’s Office informed city-parish officials that property tax revenues for next year will likely be at least $850,000 higher than earlier estimates because of rising property values.
The new proposal unveiled Thursday emerged from discussions among the administration, Boudreaux and other council members.
Beyond the 3.5 percent raise for rank-and-file employees, department directors will see an additional boost of a few thousand dollars more, and Lafayette Utility System Director Terry Huval will get a raise of $100,000, bringing his annual salary up to $246,658, according to budget figures.
Durel said he recommended the amount of the raise because Huval, who has worked as director since 1994, has been making far below the market rate for a similar position in the private sector.
“Terry could have left here a long, long time ago,” Durel said.
City-Parish Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley said no formal salary study was done for Huval’s position, but his research found that pay for directors of comparable utility systems ranged from $215,000 to $260,000, not considering that Huval also oversees the city’s fiber-optic telecommunications service, LUS Fiber.
Durel described the raise, which increases Huval’s salary by nearly 70 percent, as a correction of sorts for past years when Huval should have received steady salary bumps but did not.
Councilmen William Theriot and Jared Bellard argued against the $100,000 raise, complaining that the proposal for such a large increase came at the last minute of the budget process.
Theriot said after the meeting that the administration should have presented some formal salary study to justify the raise and that city-parish department heads should not expect salaries on par with private industry.
“The public sector should not be competing with the private sector,” he said.
Theriot and Bellard also complained that the 3.5-percent raise for all employees and the boosts for department heads comes at a time when the city-parish government is not adequately staffing the Fire Department.
Other council members spoke in favor of Huval’s higher salary and employee raises in general, arguing that city-parish government has to stay competitive with the private sector.
“We are lucky, I think, to have kept a (utilities) director for as long as we have,” Councilman Don Bertrand said. “I don’t have a problem with any of these numbers, because I think they are reasonable.”
Next year’s budget also includes a 10 percent raise for council members, though each member must decide if they want to take it.
Council members are allowed to take a total of 10 percent in raises over their four-year terms.
The raise in next year’s budget would increase their authorized annual salary from $25,480 to $28,028, according to figures from the City-Parish Finance Department.
The only two council members who had sought a raise in next year’s budget were Boudreaux and Brandon Shelvin, but a legal interpretation of city-parish government’s constitution-like charter requires that a raise for one council member be budgeted for all.
The council voted 7-2 to approve the 3.5 percent across-the-board raise and the other salary increases.
Councilmen Bertrand, Boudreaux, Shelvin, Andy Naquin, Jay Castille, Kevin Naquin and Keith Patin voted in support.
Councilmen Theriot and Bellard voted in opposition.
Bellard had also moved to eliminate a new position that Durel added in the budget for a “chief development officer” who would work as a liaison between government and private developers.
Bellard’s proposed cut failed by a vote of 6-3.
Bellard, Theriot and Andy Naquin vote in favor of cutting the position, and Bertrand, Boudreaux, Castille, Patin, Shelvin and Kevin Naquin voted against the cut.