OPELOUSAS — The Board of Aldermen approved an ordinance Tuesday reducing the annual salaries of the mayor and aldermen by 7 percent.
Mayor Donald Cravins Sr. and the aldermen have discussed the salary reduction issue for the past eight months after Cravins told the aldermen last year that he thought they, and the mayor, are paid too much.
The amended ordinance, approved by a unanimous vote of aldermen, reduces the mayor’s base salary from $71,739 to $66,717. The mayor’s annual vehicle allowance is also cut, from $9,980 to $7,980.
Aldermen will earn $15,243 compared to the $16,390 they had been getting.
The aldermen are allowed to retain their $200 monthly vehicle allowance, according to the ordinance.
The salary adjustments for mayor and aldermen become effective Jan. 1.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, before the ordinance was adopted, Opelousas businessman Patrick Fontenot discussed the salaries of the aldermen compared with those in Louisiana cities that he said are comparable in size.
Fontenot said aldermen in Hammond, New Iberia and Natchitoches make less than the Opelousas aldermen, even after the salary reductions, according to information on a Louisiana Municipal Association website.
“These salaries are from cities whose financial situation is not as bad as Opelousas,” Fontenot said.
Fontenot added Opelousas aldermen make more than some city workers, even without their vehicle allowances. He said aldermen should be willing to take some of their earnings and use that money for “quality of life projects” in Opelousas.
Alderman Julius Alsandor said the 7 percent salary cuts were a compromise from amounts discussed in previous budget committee meetings.
Alsandor said that the committee discussed cutting salaries by as much as 10 percent and a little as five percent before settling on the seven percent reduction.
Alderman Blair Briggs said the 7 percent reduction is a “step in the right direction” in reducing municipal salaries.
“We (the aldermen and mayor) have been discussing this for eight months. None of us set this salary…I think it puts it to rest,” Briggs said.
Cravins, however, said reductions for both the mayor and aldermen should have been at least 10 percent.
“The aldermen’s salaries (in Opelousas) are higher than some of the city employees,” Cravins said.
“That doesn’t bode well for the city. That’s my position.”
Wilbert Levier, a city street department worker, said he knows other city workers who have four and five children and make “$15,000 to $17,000 a year. It just doesn’t sit right.”
He added the city employees also have to pay their own insurance.
In other matters, the aldermen approved an ordinance reapportioning the city’s six voting districts.
Geographic planner Mike Hefner, hired by the aldermen to create a redistricting plan, said the reapportionment, which was based on the 2010 census, affects very few voting districts.
Hefner said the changes occur in District C, represented by Briggs, and in District A, which Alsandor represents.
District A will acquire voters previously represented by Briggs in the redistricting, Hefner said.
The plan also takes voters formerly represented by Jacqueline Martin in District E and places them in District D, which Reggie Tatum represents, according to Hefner.
Hefner said the aldermen will run in reapportioned districts during the 2015 election.