Lafayette considers city-parish employee raise

City-parish government employees could be in line for a raise in next year’s budget — their first pay adjustment in two years.

The city-parish administration has not made a definite decision but is considering some form of employee raise in the proposed budget to be sent to council members later this summer, Lafayette City-Parish Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley said Thursday.

“He (City-Parish President Joey Durel) anticipates making that a priority and does not believe he would send down a budget that does not include it,” Stanley said.

City-parish government — the second largest employer in the parish after the Lafayette Parish school system — has a work force of roughly 2,200, including police officers, firefighters and Lafayette Utilities System employees.

The council had routinely approved annual cost-of-living adjustments for employees until 2011, when the pay bumps fell victim to a tight budget as expenses, particularly employee health care and retirement, climbed faster than revenues.

Employee pay raises were also off the table in 2012, and Stanley said stagnant pay is beginning to make it hard for city-parish government to attract and keep workers in the Lafayette market, where the economy is strong and unemployment has been hovering around 4 percent.

“We are at the point now where it is starting to affect new hires,” Stanley said.

City-parish councilmen Jay Castille and Kenneth Boudreaux, who serve on the council’s finance committee, both said they support trying to find a way to fund a pay raise.

“It’s about keeping up. There is a cost to keep,” Boudreaux said. “Construction is booming and people are exiting.”

Stanley said the Police Department, which was at full strength a few years ago, now has 16 vacancies.

Councilman William Theriot said he would consider supporting a raise but wants to see detailed budget figures.

“There is no doubt that employees are deserving, but there is a question of whether we can afford it,” Theriot said.

Stanley said he is now meeting with city-parish department heads to prepare for next year’s proposed budget and that the administration will likely make a decision on the raises after getting a better handle on the budget needs of each department.

The talk of a raise comes after an recent audit found that city-parish finances are in better shape than in the past two years, in part from rising tax revenues and in part from cuts, which included a decision last year to strip some 80 unfilled positions from the budget.

Stanley and others did not discuss a specific amount for a raise. A 2 percent raise, which is on par with across-the-board raises seen in past years, would add about $2.1 million in annual expenses in the budget for salaries, retirement and life insurance, according to figures from City-Parish Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups.