Council increases city pay

By Ken Grissom

ST. MARTINVILLE – The City Council Thursday voted unanimously to put another $176,546 into salaries for city employees but nearly split on whether they ought to raise their own stipends.

Seeing they didn’t have the votes, the dissenters, Councilmen Arthur Champ and Dennis Paul Williams, went along with the majority in the end and approved the council raises to take effect after the next municipal elections.

Mayor Thomas Nelson also stipulated that he would not take the salary hike recommended by The Walters Consulting Group until the next term.

The mayor’s salary goes from $52,499 a year to $59,363. Council members will go from $7,200 to $9,397.

“These are not raises for individuals, but for positions,” Nelson said of the overall pay package.

Raises for the city employees go into effect Sept. 10.

He said that while the raises were not budgeted, there are enough buffers on various funds in the budget to more than make up the difference.

Nelson pointed out that city employees have not had significant raises in a decade, a single cost-of-living increase under the new administration notwithstanding.

The increases, recommended by a study commissioned last year, range from a total of $73,657 for the police department to $7,860 in the parks department. Individual increases are not across-the-board, and some employees will receive no increase under the plan.

In declining an immediate raise, Mayor Nelson said he had promised voters when he was campaigning for an increase in the city sales tax that he would take none of the money for himself.

Nelson said he did not hold the council to the same standard, but Councilman Ronald Charles moved to defer the council raises until a new administration is elected in two years.

“I knew what the stipend was when I ran for the office,” he said.

Councilmen Craig Prosper and Mike Fuselier supported his position.

Councilman Champ argued that their work in the community goes far beyond attending meetings twice a month, and Councilman Williams said an increase in pay was a matter of respect for the office, but both relented and did not vote against deferring the increase until the next term.

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