Jefferson Parish Councilman Mark Spears this week called it “shameful” that the parish’s Personnel Department doesn’t recommend increasing the minimum wage for parochial workers from $8.79 to $10.51 an hour.
A formula developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicates that the minimum “living wage” for a single adult with a full-time job and residence in Jefferson Parish should be $10.51 an hour, and not offering that will hamper the parish government’s efforts to recruit youthful, bright talent to work for it, Spears argued during a council meeting Wednesday.
“When you talk about our parish should be attracting young people, and keeping young people here in the parish, then that’s something that should be at the forefront, especially,” Spears said about a proposal he presented to raise the parochial workforce’s minimum wage. “When you talk about a government agency paying wages that actually don’t meet ... guidelines for the line of poverty, it’s shameful.”
Spears also expressed disappointment after saying Parish President John Young’s administration stood by a study conducted by the Personnel Department that essentially found it was not feasible to raise the minimum wage for parochial workers by $1.72 an hour, in part because it would cost $442,000.
One of Young’s chief administrative assistants, Andrew Maestri, on Wednesday denied that the parish administration agreed with the study, saying the administration — which does not oversee the independent Personnel Board — had no role in how the review was conducted.
However, Maestri then said to Spears at the meeting, “The Personnel Department conducted the feasibility study, and we concur with what the feasibility study conveyed to you.”
An exasperated Spears replied, “That’s what I just said.”
Spears last month successfully sought approval of a resolution requesting that the Personnel Department study the possibility of raising parish workers’ minimum wage. The MIT formula Spears used to come up with the $10.51 figure takes into consideration local food, housing, child care, health care, transportation and tax costs.
The parish said 222 of its roughly 2,440 classified workers — or about 9 percent — earn less than $10.51 an hour.
In recommending against the raising the minimum wage, aside from the “substantial sum” it’d cost, the Personnel Department’s study also explained how such a measure, when combined with common raises tied to merit and the successful completion of probationary periods, could result in pay bumps of about 30 percent for a small number of employees. That could create “morale issues” for employees who don’t get equivalent raises, the study said.
The study ultimately recommended that the parish complete a comprehensive study reviewing the pay plan for all classified employees, which hasn’t been done in at least nine years.