OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish Council voted 8-4 Wednesday night to boost the parish president’s annual salary by $40,000.
Parish President Bill Fontenot, who ran unopposed for a second term in October, has earned $65,000 a year since he was first elected in 2010.
Beginning next year, he’ll be paid $105,000 a year.
The president’s salary was initially set in the 2003 St. Landry’s Home Rule Charter at $65,000.
Don Menard, Fontenot’s predecessor as president, also was paid $65,000 a year.
In September, Fontenot announced he intended to seek a raise that would place his salary at $140,000 per year.
Less than a week later, he said he had changed his mind about the $140,000 and would bring the matter up after he could provide the council and the public with more information.
The proposed salary was lowered, and last month the council approved Fontenot’s request for the introduction of a budget ordinance setting the salary $105,000 a year.
The council voted on that ordinance Wednesday night.
Council member Pam Gautreau said in an interview following the November meeting that the council needed to vote on Fontenot’s raise by the Dec. 16 meeting or wait another four years because the Home Rule Charter specifies the president’s salary is established at the start of the term.
Fontenot’s second term begins in January.
Opelousas businessman Bobby Dupre told the council that Fontenot deserves the raise, noting that Sheriff Bobby Guidroz, parish Assessor Rhyn Duplechain and Clerk of Court Charles Jagneaux all earn about $136,000 annually.
Dupre also said Fontenot is on call at all hours of the day.
Armand Castille, also an Opelousas businessman, supported the raise, noting Fontenot’s leadership in getting voters to approve a 2 percent sales tax for the incorporated areas in 2013.
Linda Senegal, who identified herself as a resident of Shawnee Farms outside Opelousas, was opposed to the pay raise.
Senegal said there has been no discussion about what funding source will be used for the raise. She presented chairman Leon Robinson with a list of 20 individuals who said they were also against the raise.
Council member Alvin Stelly said it’s unfair for Fontenot to receive a raise when some parish employees have not received a raise in 12 years.
Stelly also questioned whether the budget is sufficient to provide the raise.
Fontenot was not specific in his answer to Stelly’s inquiry, saying only: “There is money in the budget to provide structural support for the parish president’s raise.”
None of the other council members spoke at the meeting about the pay raise.
During a five-minute presentation before the vote, Fontenot outlined how his leadership has led to improving parish government and economic and infrastructure growth in St. Landry. He noted the parishwide ride road tax has enabled parish government to already pave 350 miles of parish roads.
Voting to approve the raise were Jerry Red Jr., Fekisha Miller-Mathews, Hurlin Dupre, Ronald Buschel, Dexter Brown, Timothy LeJeune, Jimmie Edwards and Gary Courville.
Voting “no” were Huet Dupre, Stelly, Wayne Ardoin and Gautreau.
Wednesday was the final meeting for six outgoing council members who were either not re-elected or chose not to run for re-election. They are: Buschel, Huet Dupre, Hurlin Dupre, Robinson, Gautreau and Courville.