OPELOUSAS — St. Landry Parish President Bill Fontenot would like the Parish Council to increase his salary in his next term to a six-figure salary, but he said Friday he is delaying his original plan to bring the matter before the Parish Council next week.
Fontenot, who at the closing of qualifying Thursday was elected without opposition to a second term, had planned to introduce a proposed budget ordinance that would significantly raise his current $65,000 salary.
In an interview after the meeting, Fontenot said he planned to ask the council for $140,000 in annual pay, which he said allows him to earn at least as much as other St. Landry officials who hold parishwide offices.
Since his pay increase announcement last week, Fontenot said, he realized he may have acted too hastily and would like more time — perhaps another month — in order to compile detailed information for the council and the public.
Fontenot said after he thought more thoroughly about the issue, he decided to ask council clerk Laycie Alfred to strike the proposal off Wednesday’s meeting agenda.
Since making his intention of a pay increase known last week, Fontenot said, the feedback from the council and the public has been mixed.
“I’m really not discouraged by that. I think part of that reaction to what I was asking is a result of the lack of information about what the salaries of other parish officials are and what parish presidents from other parishes currently are making.
“Any time a public figure asks for a pay increase, it’s not going to be popular, and there is bound to be some negative reaction.
“I also don’t think the public realizes that I may not be so adamant about the $140,000 figure that I mentioned last week. I think $100,000 or in the neighborhood of that amount is something that would be considered proper, considering all the duties of the parish president,” he said.
Council member Wayne Ardoin said in an interview last week he doesn’t think this is the right time for the parish president to ask for a raise.
Ardoin said road and drainage matters should be the council’s priority at the present time.
On Friday, Fontenot said he still feels he was not wrong to ask for the salary raise just days before election qualifying.
“A lot of people said that was stupid, that I should have qualified for the second term and then asked the council later for the raise.”
Asking for the raise before qualifying “may not have been politically correct, but I think it was morally correct,” Fontenot said. “Like I said last week, I wanted to make my intentions known before qualifying to give others who might have wanted to run for parish president a chance to know what the salary is and what I think it should be.”
Fontenot said he plans to provide the council and the public information about the different job responsibilities of the parish president, the salaries of other St. Landry public officials and the salaries of other parish presidents in the Acadiana area.
For instance, Fontenot noted, the Iberia Parish president earns about $129,000 annually. “The others, I don’t know about the exact amount of their salaries, but I am certain they all make six figures plus.”
The current salary of St. Landry’s parish president was established in 2003 by a Home Rule Charter form of parish government that replaced the police jury system.
After 12 years without a pay increase for a parish president, Fontenot said, it’s time to consider the issue.
“I don’t think people realize all the matters the parish president has to handle,” he said. “A lot of people when they realize what the president is being paid, they probably wouldn’t do it at all.”