Jefferson Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse sues Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni over campaign ads about taxes _lowres

Advocate photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Jefferson Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse

Jefferson Parish government employees are likely to see some heftier paychecks, thanks to money from the recent oil spill settlement with BP.

The Parish Council on Wednesday introduced an ordinance that would give 5 percent pay raises to almost all Jefferson government employees, retroactive to the beginning of this year.

The ordinance, proposed by Councilman Ben Zahn, will be voted on in a few weeks, but it seems certain to pass. Council members voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a symbolic resolution authorizing the parish administration to go ahead with the raises, which will not apply to council members themselves.

The pay bump is made possible by the $45 million that Jefferson Parish is getting in a settlement with BP over the 2010 oil spill, Zahn’s ordinance said.

The council’s ordinance also mentions that some of the BP money will be used for various improvements throughout the parish, but it does not specify what those improvements will be.

At-large Councilman Elton Lagasse introduced the pay raise resolution during a meeting held in Grand Isle, at the town’s so-called Multiplex. He said in a written statement that the raises are meant to offset increased living costs.

“There are many hardworking and dedicated employees who serve the public every day in Jefferson,” said Lagasse, who is running for parish president in the Oct. 24 primary. “Unfortunately, tough financial times in recent years have made it difficult to provide our employees with meaningful pay raises.”

He added that the hike is necessary “to attract and retain good employees.”

“You must be able to reward them,” Lagasse said. “We have taken that step today.”

While Lagasse’s resolution was similar to Zahn’s proposed ordinance, one difference was that Lagasse’s measure did not identify the BP money as a funding source. Lagasse during a phone call Thursday said he envisioned drawing money for the raises from the general fund.

Lagasse did not return multiple phone calls Wednesday to discuss his resolution.

Like various other local government bodies, Jefferson Parish sued BP after the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, claiming the environmental and economic fallout cost the parish revenue. Council members voted this month to accept the $45 million in compensation.

The Jefferson Parish School Board, which also is getting money from BP, stopped short of giving its employees raises. But it did decide to use $4.2 million of its $24.5 million windfall for one-time bonuses of $500 and $600 for teachers and support staff. The rest of the School Board’s settlement money is being set aside for long-term retirement costs and savings.

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UPDATE: On Thursday, July 23, 2015, a day after this story was published, Councilman Elton Lagasse called The Advocate to say his resolution envisioned drawing money for the raises from the parish’s general fund. That is different from the ordinance proposed by Councilman Ben Zahn, which suggested using some of the money from the parish’s settlement with BP for the raises. This article has been updated to include Thursday’s remarks from Lagasse, who did not respond to multiple phone calls on Wednesday to discuss the raises.