East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council members have been flipping through the 500 pages of the mayor’s proposed budget that they will vote on next month, and some say the key missing element is an across-the-board pay raise for city workers.
Mayor-President Kip Holden officially unveiled his proposed 2015 budget earlier this week, noting that the budget grew by 2.5 percent and boasting that Baton Rouge is booming with job growth. But council members still have to approve the budget, and a few hope to shuffle around money before they vote.
City workers in Baton Rouge already receive 3 percent pay raises on a yearly basis until they max out upon reaching the city’s highest pay level for their job category. Once they have worked for the city for 10 years, they also start receiving longevity money on top of their salaries. Holden said at the budget meeting that he was proud to keep supporting those raises for next year.
But the city’s lowest-paid employees in the Department of Public Works have been campaigning for higher across-the-board pay raises for years, as have firefighters and police officers.
William Daniel, the mayor’s chief administrative officer, released a pay plan proposal a few weeks ago that would bump up city workers’ salaries across the board by 2 percent.
However, money for the raises isn’t included in the 2015 budget. Daniel has said he intends to offer a budget supplement early next year for the 2 percent raises.
Councilman Buddy Amoroso said he has joined forces with other council members to try to find the $5.6 million in the $830 million budget to squeeze those raises into the 2015 budget.
“If we can take money from other areas without hurting the city, then I would be in favor of employee raises,” Amoroso said.
Councilman John Delgado also took a hard-line stance on the importance of pay raises, saying he could not vote for a budget that does not offer them. In addition, Councilwoman Tara Wicker said she is most concerned about the people on the lowest end of the pay scale not receiving raises given that the council has been discussing them for years.
Under the proposed pay plan, the city-parish minimum wage would rise from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour.
Daniel has said repeatedly that the problem with adding 2 percent across-the-board raises into next year’s budget is not the amount of money involved, but the timing because negotiations are still under way with public works, fire and police union representatives.
Daniel’s hope is to instead to pass the pay raises in a budget supplement between January and March.
Wicker also said she wanted to ensure the budget carves out money for youth services and youth employment programs.
Daniel said the budget includes money for a summer youth program, which the city-parish has held for the past two years. In addition, money in the budget is set aside from a Big Buddy program, which focuses on mentoring high-risk children.