Jefferson Parish panel to consider raising minimum wage for parish employees _lowres

Jefferson Parish Councilman Mark D. Spears

Councilman Mark Spears doesn’t think the lowest-paid public employees in Jefferson Parish are making enough money to support themselves and their families.

So at a Parish Council meeting Wednesday, he won passage of a resolution requesting the parish’s Personnel Department to conduct a study of whether it would be feasible to raise the minimum wage for parish workers by $1.72 an hour.

“You want to reward people who are out here and working,” Spears said.

Administration spokeswoman Kriss Fortunato said the lowest wage that Jefferson Parish’s classified employees earn is $8.79 an hour, which complies with federal law.

But in his resolution, Spears cited a formula developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that shows a “living wage” for a single adult living and working full time in Jefferson Parish should be $10.51 per hour.

The MIT calculation accounts for local costs related to food, housing, child care, health care, transportation and taxes, Spears wrote in his resolution.

Spears said the parish’s low-wage workers can’t live and spend locally if they can’t afford to live in Jefferson. “The prevailing wage offered by the public sector should reflect a wage rate required to meet minimum standards of living,” he said.

Fortunato said 222 of Jefferson Parish’s 2,437 classified employees make less than $10.51 an hour.

Spears said he is meeting with Personnel Department Director John Dumas next week and should get a better idea of a possible timetable for the study’s completion.

He remarked that his resolution could be at least a small part of the solution to sagging sales tax revenue in Jefferson reported by Parish President John Young.

“When people have a few more dollars, they spend those dollars,” Spears said.