OPELOUSAS — St. Landry Parish president Bill Fontenot plans to ask the Parish Council to more than double the salary for the parish president in the next term.
Fontenot plans to ask the council later this month to increase the parish president’s annual salary to $140,000, a significant increase over the $65,000 budgeted.
Both Fontenot and former Parish President Don Menard received the $65,000 annual salary — a rate that’s been in place since the parish has been governed by a Home Rule Charter form of government, beginning in 2003.
During his second term, Menard requested the council increase the president’s salary to $75,000, but the council said no.
Menard later resigned as president in 2010, and Fontenot was elected.
On Wednesday night, Fontenot told the council that he plans to introduce an ordinance at the Sept. 16 meeting to increase the parish president’s salary. Fontenot’s announcement brought no discussion from council members at the meeting, but the ultimate reception may be a cool one.
“It’s just not the right time,” council member Wayne Ardoin said Friday. “We need all the roads done and the ditches done.
“I’m not going to get involved one way or the other,” he added.
In an interview after Wednesday’s meeting, Fontenot said he plans to run for re-election in October and wanted to make his intention to seek a pay raise for the office clear before election qualifying begins next week.
“I think that I’m going about it the right way,” he said. “I’m proposing this now, before qualifying. That way, anyone else running for (parish president) will know what the current salary is and what sort of increase that I am asking the council for.
“This request may also encourage other individuals who want to run for the office,” Fontenot said.
He declined to speculate whether there are enough votes on the 13-member council to approve the proposal.
“I know there will be some criticism, especially from a certain side of this meeting room. It’s not a popular thing to talk about a raise.
“From the feedback I have gotten after talking to some professional people, I think a raise that would upgrade the president’s pay is justified,” he said.
Although he did not reveal their salaries, Fontenot said he is the lowest-paid public official in St. Landry Parish holding a parishwide position.
“The sheriff, clerk of court and the assessor, they are all making twice (the pay),” Fontenot said. “I think the parish president should be paid the same as all other elected officials. As of now, the president earns about half of what other parish officials are making.”
Fontenot also said he’s the lowest-paid parish president among the neighboring parishes.