ST. FRANCISVILLE — After a lengthy debate, the Parish Council voted 5-2 on Monday to allow money to remain in the 2014-15 budget for 4 percent pay raises for some parish employees.
The raises will cost the parish $70,000 per year and the money will come from other areas of the budget, such as the sewer allocation.
Council members Mel Percy, Melvin Young, Rickey Lambert, Heather Howle and Otis Wilson voted for the measure.
Lea Williams and John Kean cast the dissenting votes.
The vote effectively upholds a veto by Parish President Kevin Couhig of a previous amendment that would have stripped the pay raises.
Meanwhile, the council unanimously overrode his veto of their amendment on funding the economic development board, effectively compelling the board to develop its own budget.
Parish attorney Mike Hughes is requesting an opinion from the state attorney general on whether the economic development board should submit its own budget.
Before the votes, Couhig urged the council to consider keeping the money in the budget for the raises. Health insurance for parish employees is expected to rise 11 percent and some of the raises would be used to help employees at the lower end of the pay scale deal with the increase, he said. Raises would also be given to employees who are “doing a good job, as a reminder that good performance is expected,” Couhig said.
“It sounds noble to say that we should pay very high salaries because we want what’s best for the parish,” Williams said. “But we have less money, so we will have less services. The money has to come from somewhere.”
Couhig and the council have clashed about budget issues in the past.
The council approved the operational budget for the parish submitted by Couhig in January, but did not initially approve the capital outlay budget for January to June 2014. Some council members cited concerns about lack of detail, requesting that Couhig provide specific projects with estimated costs and projected timelines for completion.
The council ultimately voted unanimously to approve the budget in February without the changes.