OPELOUSAS — The Opelousas Board of Aldermen voted 4-2 Thursday to take the first step in boosting Mayor Reggie Tatum’s salary by $9,000 a year.
Tatum is paid about $66,000 a year, which is less than the $71,000 a year paid to former Mayor Donald Cravins Sr., whom Tatum defeated in the Dec. 6 runoff election.
If the board approves his salary request, Tatum, who’s been in office only four months, would be paid $4,000 a year more than Cravins had been paid before the two-term mayor left office.
A public hearing on the proposed ordinance amendment will be held at the board’s meeting next month. Following that hearing, the board will decide whether to approve the raise.
In 2014, the board voted to reduce the salaries of the aldermen and mayor by 7 percent, but the reductions did not go into effect until January of this year, when the new terms started.
The proposed amendment introduced Thursday would allow Tatum to earn $75,000 annually in addition to receiving a $665 monthly mileage compensation.
Five of the six aldermen earn $15,243 annually. The alderman-at-large and mayor pro-tempore are each paid $16,423 a year. Each board member also receives $350 a month for mileage and expenses.
Alderwoman Jacqueline Martin, who along with Julius Alsandor voted against the proposal, said Tatum’s request will not affect the board members’ pay.
“I’ve talked to a few city workers who don’t think (Tatum’s pay increase) is fair. They thought they were getting a raise,” Martin said.
At the time the board agreed to the pay cuts, Cravins had said he felt the pay reductions were necessary because of the low salaries paid to some city workers and because of what elected officials in other cities were paid.
On Thursday, Tatum said his research of salaries paid to mayors in towns similar in size to Opelousas indicate he should be paid more.
“I just want (the salary) to be fair and comparable,” Tatum told the board.
Opelousas, Tatum said, has 15 workers who earn more than he does.
Since taking office in January, Tatum said, he also has helped with municipal street department responsibilities, such as driving the city’s street sweeper.
John Lamke, who worked in the Cravins administration as the community and economic development director, told the board he feels it is wrong for Tatum to ask for a raise after only four months in office.
“I think this should be tabled. … It’s a slap in the face to the (city) workers. I don’t think you’ve done anything in the past four months that deserves a raise,” Lamke told Tatum.
Alsandor said Tatum should wait a while longer. “The timing of this request is ill-advised,” Alsandor said. “I think in a year or two down the line you might want to see if it is feasible.”
Tatum said the city has money in its budget to sustain his salary request.