Metro Councilman John Delgado is backing away from his recent pledge to find the money to add employee pay raises to the mayor’s proposed 2015 budget that will be voted on Tuesday.
Delgado said weeks ago that he was thumbing through the $830 million budget document and carving out money he thought could be diverted to a 2 percent, $3.6 million pay raise for East Baton Rouge Parish government workers. Several other Metro Council members had joined his rallying cry, saying they would vote to add pay raises to the budget if the money was available.
But Delgado softened his once firm stance Monday, saying he simply could not find the additional money to pay for the raises. He would not say whether he will vote for the mayor’s budget.
If the Metro Council approves Mayor-President Kip Holden’s budget without a rewrite, it will be just the next chapter in the familiar tale of city workers finding their quest for pay hikes unfulfilled.
Despite the change in tone from their biggest supporter, Department of Public Works union representatives on Monday were still pushing for the Metro Council to consider including a raise on Tuesday in the 2015 budget.
“We’ve been in direct communication with several Metro Council members about maybe finding a way to provide raises for DPW workers in the budget,” said LaTanja Silvester, the president of the local Service Employees International Union.
Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel has offered city workers a different kind of pay increase, saying the Holden administration instead wants to move on a restructured city pay plan in early 2015 that would include not only pay raises but also cut benefits.
Delgado says that once city revenue numbers are available in January, he also will support passing a budget supplement. He advocated that the supplement would include across-the-board pay raises for public works employees, police officers and firefighters.
Daniel’s pay plan changes have not been widely popular among any city workers. Union representatives for DPW, police and fire have been at the negotiating table with him for months now.
“I’m happy to do a budget supplement with or without their proposed pay plan,” Delgado said.
Holden’s proposed budget includes yearly pay increases for workers making their way through the city-parish pay scale but no additional raises. Most city workers, who complain they are underpaid compared with employees in other cities, have gone more than five years without raises.
While Delgado is backing down, DPW union representatives are putting on one final stand. Silvester, the local union president, released a poll Monday that shows Baton Rouge voters agree DPW employees “should be paid a fair wage for the work they perform.”
“It’s important that we fight for the workers who are the lowest-paid,” Silvester said.
The poll, conducted by Revily, a polling company in Atlanta, surveyed 1,700 people in Baton Rouge over two hours on Dec. 5. The automated-call poll, which Revily said had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent, also shows 45.97 percent of those interviewed would strongly support a 5 percent DPW pay raise if it would not require a tax increase. That question followed another question that asked if respondents believe DPW employees deserve a fair wage — 52 percent strongly agreed.
City-parish officials have repeatedly said that giving any raise higher than 2 percent is unrealistic and trying to find enough money for a 2 percent raise has been enough of a challenge.
Holden previously said any revisions to the 2015 budget could have dire implications for the city-parish as a whole. He issued the same warning the last time Metro Council members challenged the proposed budget in 2011.
The Metro Council will meet to approve the mayor’s proposed budget at 4 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.