3-percent salary bump proposed
LAFAYETTE — The fate of a proposed pay raise for Lafayette city-parish employees will be decided when the City-Parish Council meets Thursday to adopt next year’s budget.
The budget that City-Parish President Joey Durel sent to the council earlier this year included a 2.5 percent raise for city-parish government’s 2,265 employees — the second largest public or private workforce in the parish after the Lafayette Parish school system.
At issue on Thursday is a budget amendment by Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux to add another half percent to the raise, bumping it up to 3 percent and raising the expense from about $2.8 million to $3.3 million.
Some council members have questioned whether the additional $500,000 might strain the city-parish budget, which is just beginning to recover after a few tight years of weak tax collections and rising health care and retirement expenses.
The administration has also been lukewarm to the idea, and Durel could veto any council changes to the budget, though a vote of six members could override that veto.
Durel was traveling out of state on Monday afternoon and could not be reached for questions, but City-Parish Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley said the administration has not taken a firm stance on what he characterized as a “fluid situation.”
“The mayor has certainly considered his options as it relates to a veto,” Stanley said.
In response to questions raised about the 3 percent raise, Boudreaux proposed another budget amendment to strip funding for all new positions in the budget.
That would include a new position proposed by Durel for a “chief development officer” who would work directly with Durel and serve as a government liaison to help guide new developments through the process of obtaining all needed government permits and approvals.
Boudreaux said Monday that if the administration and others don’t believe there is enough money for a 3 percent raise, then city-parish government needs to assess the need for any new position.
“Do we bring on new people, or do we reward those employees who have been with us?” Boudreaux said.
City-parish government employees have not received a raise for the past two budget years.
Boudreaux said he believes revenues are solid enough for the 3-percent raise.
“That money is available,” he said.
The only other major budget amendment up for a vote on Thursday is a proposal to spend about $500,000 more a year at the Lafayette Parish Public Health Unit to hire five more nurses and two more clerks.
City-parish government shares expenses at the clinic with the state, but state funding has fallen off, prompting state Office of Public Health regional director Dr. Tina Stefanski to petition the council this year for more staff.
The money the city-parish spends at the health unit comes from a dedicated 0.94-mill property tax that can be used only for expenses related to public clinics.
Durel had proposed suspending the collection of that tax next year because it has been bringing in about $1 million more than needed to cover the city-parish’s share of expenses at the clinic, which is housed at the Clifton Chenier Center in Lafayette.
Some council members have questioned whether local government should take on more of the expenses to fill in gaps left by the state, even if the local health unit tax brings in enough money to pay for additional staff.
The special meeting for the adoption of the budget is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the main city-parish offices on University Avenue.