The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council is considering a recommendation to raise to $157,000 the salary for the next person elected to serve as the city-parish’s mayor-president.
The mayor’s salary right now can range from the lower $106,000 range up to around $150,000 depending on length of service. Mayor-President Kip Holden currently earns $152,317.
Council Administrator Casey Cashio has recommended the council pay the next mayor $157,000 a year but keep it at a flat rate instead of increasing the salary on a yearly basis. Cashio and others researched seven other neighboring cities to determine where the salary for Baton Rouge’s mayor should fall.
Still, council members on Wednesday responded less than enthusiastically to a possible pay raise. Some said they needed more information about other mayors in peer cities before making a final decision, prompting them to defer setting the salary until next month.
Holden’s pay is close to being in line with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is paid $154,533, according to Cashio’s study.
Holden fares better than the mayor of Lafayette, who is paid $117,044, and the mayors of Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, who both earn between $118,000 and $121,000.
But the East Baton Rouge Parish mayor’s salary pales in comparison to the mayors of Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee and Jacksonville, Florida, who all make between $170,000 and $181,000 a year.
While Nashville’s mayor currently draws a salary of $136,500, the pay is slated to rise to $180,000 for whoever wins this fall’s mayoral election in Nashville.
Holden’s salary is also lower than that of many other local elected officials and other leaders, something he shares with Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose salary is $130,000 a year.
Among the Baton Rouge leaders paid more than Holden are: Capital Area Transit System CEO Bob Mirabito at $175,000, Visit Baton Rouge CEO Paul Arrigo at $163,000, Police Chief Carl Dabadie at $160,000 a year and East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission Superintendent Carolyn McKnight at $157,000.
Some Metro Coouncil members said they don’t favor raising the pay for the mayor’s office.
“My concern is that we have city-parish workers that are already low-paid, and to give an increase of what I saw would not be a good thing ... when we have workers struggling all over this parish,” Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said.
City-parish employees went years without raises before finally receiving them this past year.
Councilman Trae Welch questioned why the mayor is treated as a city-parish employee rather than as an elected position.
He pointed out that elected officials accumulate sick leave and annual leave, which they often do not use given the nature of their jobs and schedules.
“At the end of the four years, you just get a big check,” Welch said about unused sick days and vacation days for elected officials. “My thing would be we set it at a reasonable level but that we don’t do sick leave and annual leave.”
Welch said he would be open to setting a higher salary for the mayor while trimming leave.
Delgado also said before the meeting that he would like to see changes to how leave policies work for the mayor.
The Metro Council has the authority to set the mayor’s salary at whatever level it wants.
The last time the mayor’s salary came up in 2011, Holden asked the Metro Council not to increase his salary. He was in his second term at the time and was earning $127,672.
“You look around the country and companies aren’t providing raises,” Holden said at the time. “They’re laying people off.”
Baton Rouge will not have a mayoral election until 2016.
The council deferred action on raising the mayor’s pay for 30 days. Under the Plan of Government, the Metro Council has to set the pay a year before the mayor takes office.