Council rejects change in next director’s salary
The East Baton Rouge Metro Council rejected on Wednesday a request to increase the pay range for the incoming parish Library System director, a move library officials said was necessary to attract qualified candidates.
The council also voted to roll forward property tax millages for some city-parish agencies, and approved $380,000 worth of downtown improvements.
The pay grade for the library director is $72,388 to $100,202. Initially the Library Board of Control recommended boosting the range to $115,588 to $160,000 but offered a compromise Wednesday of $104,751 to $145,000.
The council fell one vote short of approving the compromise.
Council members Ronnie Edwards, Donna Collins-Lewis, C. Denise Marcelle, Joel Boé, Tara Wicker and Alison Gary voted in favor of the pay grade increase. Trae Welch, Chandler Loupe, Scott Wilson, Mike Walker and Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois voted against it. Ulysses “Bones” Addison was absent from the meeting.
Stan Bardwell, a library board member, noted that the library system has a $33.7 million budget, more than 500 employees, 12 current branches, and $100 million worth of ongoing construction projects.
“We cannot expect to attract someone qualified to operate a system of this size and complexity at the current salary,” Bardwell said.
Several Metro Council members took issue with the pay increase because the city-parish already paid a consulting firm $160,000 to evaluate and make recommendations about the pay and benefits of city-parish employees, including the library director position. The study is expected to be complete in December.
Welch asked to defer the item until after the pay study is completed, but the council voted against the deferral.
Bardwell said the board was advised by its search firm that the current pay grade would “be a barrier to recruiting a qualified individual.”
Interim Director Mary Stein said the firm recommended a salary around $115,000, which was based on the competitive salaries the search firm sees for comparable systems.
Bardwell also noted that the incoming director, under the current pay scale, would likely earn less than Stein, an assistant library director, who earns more than $100,000 after working 28 years with the system.
“Our incoming director should at least have a starting salary higher than the highest-paid person on staff,” Boé said.
Annette Bookter, human resources director, said she would ask the consulting firm to expedite the library director’s pay analysis.
But Stein and Bardwell said after the meeting they were doubtful expediting the study would help them.
The application period closes Friday and a new director is expected to be selected by Aug. 18, Bardwell said.
Stein said some applicants were waiting to apply, hoping the council would approve the pay grade increase. She also said she expects some will drop out of the race.
The job was advertised with a starting salary of “more than $100,000.” Stein said they could still do that, but there would be no opportunity for raises.
The Metro Council also approved rolling forward millages for EMS, the Baton Rouge Municipal Fire Salaries and Benefits and four fire protection districts amounting to less than $800,000 in total tax revenue.
Woody Jenkins, chairman of the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party, urged the council not to ruin its record of not increasing taxes.
But Curt Monte, Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman, responded that a more important record was that of the Baton Rouge Fire Department, which is a top-rated department.
“If it doesn’t roll forward, we’re going to be $380,000 short, and next year it’s going to be $600,000,” he said.
Only Walker, Wilson and Gary voted against the roll forward.
The council also approved $380,000 for signage, stage lighting and roadside improvements downtown. The funds come from a dedicated state sales tax rebate.
Bourgeois, Walker and Wilson voted against the downtown spending.