Jefferson Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse supports giving pay raises to parish government employees this year. He just doesn’t want to fund those raises with money from the recent oil spill settlement with BP, which a fellow councilman has proposed doing, Lagasse said Thursday in a statement.
At a meeting Wednesday in Grand Isle, the Parish Council passed a resolution offered by Lagasse authorizing Jefferson President John Young’s administration to give 5 percent “cost of living” raises to parish employees. Lagasse on Thursday said he envisioned using general parish funds to finance the raises, which would go into effect at the beginning of 2016.
But resolutions do not have the force of law. So, separate from Lagasse’s resolution, Parish Councilman Ben Zahn on Wednesday introduced an ordinance calling for 5 percent raises for parish government employees. Zahn’s proposed legislation — which could be voted on in a few weeks — had some key differences with the resolution proposed by Lagasse, who intends to run to become Jefferson’s next parish president on Oct. 24.
If the ordinance is approved as was originally submitted, the raises will be retroactive to the beginning of the year. And the first version of Zahn’s proposed legislation suggests funding the raises with a portion of the $45 million that Jefferson Parish is getting in its settlement with BP over damages caused by the 2010 oil spill.
On Thursday, Lagasse posted a statement on the official Facebook page for his parish president’s campaign which said that he could not support the use of BP settlement money on “one-time pet projects.”
“When the BP oil spill caused havoc along our coast, we assured those communities we would fight to make this right,” Lagasse’s statement said. “I support ensuring that the settlement from BP is spent wisely to provide protection to our most valuable communities.
“Jefferson Parish needs to be held accountable for how these funds are expended and to provide the maximum benefit to our parish. Many communities suffered from this disaster and anything less is simply irresponsible.”
In his own statement, Zahn said money from the recent BP settlement represents reimbursements for sales tax revenue lost as a result of the disaster. The money is not dedicated to coastal restoration, Zahn said.
Zahn said he is hoping to get with Lagasse to reconcile the differences between both the resolution and the ordinance from Wednesday. But Lagasse indicated in a text message that he was “not interested,” said Zahn, who happens to have endorsed Lagasse’s opponent in the parish president’s race, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni.
Jefferson Parish and other local government bodies sued BP after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, claiming the environmental and economic fallout cost the area revenue.
Grand Isle was greatly affected by the oil spill, and during Wednesday’s meeting residents told council members that the fishing industry’s hauls there have not been what they used to be prior to the disaster.
Parish Council members voted this month to accept the $45 million as compensation.
The Parish School Board is also getting money from BP, but that panel stopped short of giving its employees raises. It did, however, decide to use $4.2 million of its $24.5 windfall for one-time bonuses of $500 and $600 for teachers and support staff.