The Livingston Parish Council may soon approve the first pay raise for council members in a decade.
Councilwoman Joan Landry is the sponsor of an ordinance slated to be introduced Monday night to increase each council member’s pay from $1,200 per month to $1,600 per month.
The introduction comes just under the wire. The parish’s Home Rule Charter allows the council to raise its pay by ordinance but prohibits that vote from taking place during the final year of a council term — in this case, 2015. The raise, if approved, would not go into effect until the next term begins in January 2016.
The council last voted itself a raise in 2000, increasing the monthly stipend from the charter-set rate of $800 to the current rate of $1,200. That raise went into effect in 2004.
The new raise, if approved, would bring Livingston in line with the state law maximum for police juries — a limit the Home Rule Charter says Livingston council members cannot exceed.
The change also would bring Livingston in line with surrounding parishes, Landry said Thursday.
Tangipahoa Parish Council members and St. Helena Parish police jurors each receive $1,600 per month. Members of the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council receive $1,000 per month plus an $800 monthly car allowance. St. Tammany Parish Council members, who receive $2,300 per month, recently voted to increase their pay, effective in 2016.
“All the naysayers, let me tell you what: We work our tails off,” Landry said. “It’s not a part-time job. It’s a full-time job.”
Landry said she’s received more than 4,000 emails and countless phone calls in her three years on the council. Constituents call council members’ homes and stop in at their private businesses, she said.
“We do a lot more than attend two meetings a month,” Landry said. “We have committee meetings and meetings with architects, engineers and legislators. We ride the roads of our districts to see about road problems, drainage problems, abandoned properties, trash violations and other trouble spots. We research laws and write ordinances and answer five phone calls for every item we place on an agenda.
“And it’s even twice that amount of work for the chairman,” she said.
Chairman Ricky Goff said council members cannot do their job accurately and responsibly by approaching it as a part-time position.
“There’s a lot of research that goes along with it,” he said. “Some are more aggressive about it than others, but you’ve got nine people doing it, and our responsibilities include whatever you can imagine.”
Councilman Chance Parent said council members are public servants, but they also need to be compensated for their time and expenses.
The charter allows council members to be reimbursed for “properly authorized vouchered expenses incurred in conducting official business of the parish government” but makes an exception for in-parish travel.
Livingston council members also no longer receive health insurance through the parish following a Sept. 11, 2013, state attorney general’s opinion that said premium payments must be calculated as compensation and are included in the charter’s limitation on how much council members are paid.
“They took our health insurance away, so the only benefit we have is the salary,” Landry said.
“I may catch flak from it, but I don’t care,” she said of her proposal.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen.