The St. Tammany Parish Council won’t adopt the $123.7 million parish budget for 2015 until its December meeting, voting unanimously and with no discussion Thursday to table the operating and capital budget for a month.
Parish President Pat Brister’s administration proposed the budget.
Councilmen Jerry Binder and Marty Gould were absent for the vote.
Councilman Steve Stefancik, chairman of the council’s Finance Committee, said some details still need to be worked out following a series of budget hearings that wrapped up late last month.
Earlier this week, he said those details include information the committee was seeking on justices of the peace and constables. They had turned out in force at a hearing to request a pay raise, saying that they had not received one in 15 years.
They each receive $500 per month from the parish and another $100 per month from the state, Stefancik said. But he pointed out that they can generate additional revenue for themselves by writing tickets for litterers and taking them to JP Court. The $100 fine for littering is split between the constable and the justice of the peace, he said.
Some of the officials are reluctant to write tickets in their districts, Stefancik said, although those who do so are able to make money.
“We don’t have money in the bank to pay people to do nothing,’’ he said.
During the hearings, department heads and agencies that receive public money were asked to appear and answer questions. Many of the questions focused on pay, with council members closely scrutinizing merit raises in particular.
Stefancik said the Parish Council had made it clear to the administration that it was not going to allow “everyone to get a merit pay raise every year.’’
In October, the council voted to increase the $2,300 per month paid to council members, with the amount of the raise to be based on the average percentage raise given to the parish’s 500 employees. But that raise won’t go into effect until the next term, in January 2016.
Last year, car allowances were a major issue in the budget hearings. But at the first hearing this fall, Stefancik said the administration had made changes to ensure that department heads who don’t drive much for their jobs don’t get as large an allowance as those who log a lot of miles for work.
Brister voluntarily gave up her $1,200-a-month car allowance in favor of using a parish vehicle.
In her budget message to the council, Brister described the budget, which represents a 3.8 percent increase over this year’s, as conservative and fiscally responsible.
Stefancik said officials are trying to add needed services that are not currently provided, such as funding for a mental health court. The parish also faces legal costs in its battle to block fracking and must deal with shortfalls in the criminal court fund.
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