More than 35,000 of Louisiana’s rank-and-file classified employees received their favorable evaluations, but they’re not getting their pay raises.
Officials at most state government agencies say they don’t have the money and would have to lay off employees to grant the 4 percent salary increases.
The pay bumps were scheduled to take place Oct. 1, but a majority of the executive branch agencies, along with most colleges and universities, sought and received state Civil Service permission to withhold the extra money. Ninety-six percent of the 37,736 classified civil servants evaluated were rated “exceptional” or “successful” — the job performance ratings needed to be eligible for the annual pay raises, according to a Civil Service report. State workers got raises last year, the first in three years, for some.
“I’d like nothing more than to give employee raises,” said Kathy Kliebert, the state health chief whose “lay off avoidance” filing impacted 5,153 people working at the State Department of Health and Hospitals. Four percent pay raises would have cost DHH an additional $10.5 million.
“It’s not really responsible of us, knowing we are facing a really tight budget, to give a raise at this time,” Kliebert said.
The Jindal administration announced a deficit in the operating budget for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The money needed to pay for the already promised spending in the current fiscal year is expected to come up short; and fiscal officials predict that legislators will need to find upwards of $700 million in cuts or increased revenues to balance the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016.
Non-education staff at LSU, the University of New Orleans, Southern University New Orleans and Southeastern Louisiana University at Hammond won’t get the raise. But employees at Southern University-Baton Rouge and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette will get raises, at least according to Civil Service filings.
LSU President King Alexander opted to fill faculty vacancies to handle growing student demand rather than increasing salaries, LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said.
Some employees of the government agencies run by officials elected statewide will get pay raises, others won’t.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, state Treasurer John Kennedy and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon withheld the raises.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain granted them — only to classified employees — no appointees. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has no classified employees.
Schedler said a layoff plan implemented when his agency was facing budget cuts did not materialize. The savings allowed him to grant raises. “It’s also important to note that we have had no communication from the administration concerning potential cuts or their severity,” Schedler said in a statement.
Classified employees are those with job protection through Civil Service. Unclassified employees are appointees, professors as well as employees subject to hiring and firing at will.
Civil Service does not have information on whether unclassified employees got pay raises. Division of Administration spokesman Gregory Dupuis said unclassified employees in cabinet departments have not received a raise.
State Police has its own separate commission. State Police troopers have received a well-publicized average 30 percent salary boost, despite budget difficulties. State Police Col. Mike Edmonson has said the money was needed to keep trooper pay competitive with law enforcement entities in the state.
A handful of entities gave classified employees less than the 4 percent, including Civil Service and Baton Rouge Community College which granted 3 percent.
Interim Civil Service director Byron Decoteau said agencies can still seek permission to withhold pay raises but now each must go before the Civil Service Commission instead of being handled administratively.
“I’m sure every appointing authority would like to be in a position to grant the performance adjustment,” Decoteau said. He said most agencies have indicated if the financial situation changed the raise would be forthcoming.
In addition, employee keep their eligibility for the raise for a three year period as long as they don’t get a “needs improvement” rating on their job evaluation. The raise can be granted retroactively, he said.
Even with no raise, Decoteau said the performance evaluation “is a good tool to use with employees so they know what is expected of them.”
“This took is effective when if people are in layoff avoidance mode.”
Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage from the State Capitol, follow Louisiana politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/