Interested in being East Baton Rouge Parish’s next mayor-president? Well, the gig just got a little sweeter.
The parish Metro Council on Wednesday approved an annual salary of $175,000 for the next mayor taking office in January 2017.
Mayor-President Kip Holden earns an annual salary of $152,317, a number that has increased incrementally over his 11-year term. The new mayor will receive the same $175,000 salary for all four years, rather than await annual increases.
Holden is term-limited, so absent the change, the new mayor would have started at the previous starting salary of $106,923, which was set in 1999.
The council also changed the next mayor’s benefits, so he or she will not be paid for accrued sick and vacation leave like other city-parish employees.
Mayors accrue vacation and sick leave throughout the years but traditionally have not been required to claim any days off. That means at the end of their terms, they can be paid for every day of leave, up to the cap of 1,920 hours, regardless of how much time they spend in the office.
At the end of his term, Holden will receive a payment of at least $141,926 for unused leave.
“Whether it’s a council person or the mayor, we stand in different positions than a regular employee,” said Councilman Trae Welch. “We shouldn’t be paid sick and vacation, and instead of getting a windfall at the end of a term. I think this change is proper.”
The changes in pay and benefits were proposed by Councilman Joel Boé, who initially said he’d have preferred to see the salary set at $225,000 a year, “but I understand the reservations.”
Councilman John Delgado asked the council to instead consider a new salary of $150,000 a year.
“We’re only able to give our employees, our DPW, our police, our firefighters, a 2 percent pay raise. I don’t think I can in good conscience support such a dramatic pay raise (for the mayor),” Delgado said. “Being mayor is about serving your community; it’s not about getting the highest salary you can get.”
Boé said he thought it would be a “great injustice to our mayor that he not be the highest paid city employee.”
Currently, city-parish employees like Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. and Fire Chief Ed Smith out-earn the mayor-president, with annual salaries of $159,640 and $161,752, respectively.
Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said comparisons with some city-parish employees are unfair because those employees have spent decades as public servants who have incrementally grown their salaries.
Delgado also noted the governor of Louisiana earns $130,000 a year.
Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards countered that taxpayers foot the bill for expensive security and living expenses for the governor, which could be considered a larger part of total compensation.
Ultimately, the council rejected Delgado’s proposal for a $150,000 a year salary.
Supporting the increase to $175,000 a year were Welch, Banks-Daniel, Scott Wilson, Donna Collins-Lewis, Edwards, Tara Wicker and Boé.
Council members Chandler Loupe, C. Denise Marcelle, Buddy Amoroso and Delgado voted no on that salary increase.
Ryan Heck was absent.