Despite a few objectors in the audience who said their parish leaders deserve a raise but not as much as what was on the table, the St. Bernard Parish Council approved an ordinance Tuesday that will more than double the annual compensation for the seven-member panel after the next election cycle.
Under the changes, sponsored by Councilman Casey Hunnicutt, council members will see their pay rise to $17,400 for an at-large position and to $15,000 for a district position, both up from the current $7,200. The council chairman will be paid $19,800, up from $8,400.
The ordinance, which passed 6-1, will go into effect after the next Parish Council is seated in 2016.
Councilman Ray Lauga Jr. cast the lone dissenting vote.
Although most of his colleagues spoke guardedly in favor of the change, all agreeing that they weren’t in politics for the money but that every little bit helps, Lauga conceded that he understood their position.
“It does take a lot of time, and it is a huge sacrifice,” he said. “I can only speak for myself. When I ran, it wasn’t about the money. I didn’t even think about the money.”
Earlier, Clem Mackles, of eastern St. Bernard, said he believes the council deserves a pay boost but what was being proposed was “too hard for the people of St. Bernard to swallow.”
“You really need to rethink your situation on the amount of money that you’re trying to give yourself,” he told the board.
Hunnicutt, though, said the proposed increases would just keep up with inflation since the last time the council received a raise in the late 1980s, and he cited cost-saving measures the council imposed in recent years, including eliminating take-home cars.
“This is simply 1988 dollars in today’s dollars,” Hunnicutt said. “I don’t see this as a raise.”
He added, “People say it’s a part-time job. It’s not, and it digs into your personal life, and you have to make a lot of sacrifices.”
The council also had a supporter in Parish President David Peralta, who said he “fully and completely” supported the raises.
“The amount of money that we pay these men that are up there today is absolutely embarrassing when you start looking at the salaries of their counterparts in other jurisdictions,” said Peralta, who plans to run for re-election next year.
Elsewhere in the region, officials in St. Charles Parish discussed introducing a proposal to raise the salaries of council members Monday, but the proposal ultimately went nowhere.
The changes, sponsored by Councilman Paul Hogan, would have increased St. Charles council members’ pay to $18,500 for an at-large position, up from $14,055, and to $15,000 for a district seat, up from $10,545.
The increases were introduced earlier in the summer but failed 8-1, with Hogan casting the only vote in favor.
The changes were set to be reintroduced Monday ahead of a potential vote next month, but discussion was “postponed indefinitely” without a vote.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.