PLAQUEMINE — The Iberville Parish Council adopted its $41.6 million budget for the 2013 fiscal year Tuesday night shortly after a sparsely attended public hearing where a heated exchange erupted between a council member and the parish fiscal adviser.
Nine council members voted in favor of the new spending plan, which increased by 1.5 percent compared with 2012, while Councilman Salaris Butler chose to abstain from voting following his fiery exchange with parish Financial Director Randall Dunn.
Council members Leonard Jackson, Henry Scott and Mitchel Ourso did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.
Tempers flared during the budget hearing when Butler questioned Dunn about an $18,000 projected increase in the wages and benefits allocated to the Information and Technology Department.
Butler said he had found indications that some parish employees would be getting healthy pay increases in the upcoming budget year.
“When you increase wages and salaries by $25,000 to $30,000, we need to know where that money is going,” Butler said to Dunn.
Dunn replied that he wasn’t aware of any salary increases and that the $18,000 increase cited by Butler was just a “cushion” amount assigned to Information and Technology’s budget in case the council chose to fill two now-vacant job slots.
One of the open slots is for the department’s director, Dunn said.
“It won’t be spent unless you hire someone; it’s a budget projection,” Dunn said. “If you have to pay them more, you’ll have it there and won’t have to make a budget amendment.”
Dunn criticized Butler for not meeting with him sooner since he, Butler, was given 30 days to review the proposed budget, which was released on Oct. 16.
Butler countered that he had reviewed the budget shortly before Tuesday night’s hearing.
“That’s an insult because I spent six months working on this budget,” Dunn retorted. “And for you to sit here tonight and say you just looked at it — and now you want to ask questions?”
Board President Matt Jewell added, “To sit here tonight during a public hearing and nitpick a budget is ridiculous.”
After the council’s vote Butler said, “The only reason I’m abstaining is because ... I was told I can’t ask all these questions, so I don’t feel like I have the sufficient information to vote positively on this budget.”