The Slidell City Council agreed this week to give all city employees, including its own members, a midyear 2.5 percent raise with the adoption of a supplemental budget.
The supplemental budget boosts the city’s operating budget for the year by $197,200. The raise, which covers only the final five months of the fiscal year, accounts for $177,000 of that amount. It goes into effect Feb. 1.
The City Council also voted Tuesday on three separate ordinances to increase the pay of the mayor, the police chief and the nine council members. The ordinances cite a provision in the city’s charter that says those officials are eligible for a salary increase of not more than the average percentage increase granted to all city employees.
The votes to give 2.5 percent raises to Mayor Freddy Drennan and Police Chief Randy Smith were unanimous, but Councilman Jay Newcomb cast a lone vote against the City Council raise.
Drennan’s pay will increase from $110,723 to $113,491 a year. Smith’s pay will go from $99,755 to $102,249.
The council members, who serve part time, will see their pay increase from $19,675 to $20,168.
There was little discussion of the raises, but one audience member, Gary Gammon, suggested the council members were increasing their salaries as a way to boost their retirement pay.
Councilman Sam Caruso said that would be a “good trick” because the council members are not eligible to participate in the city’s retirement program.
Drennan pointed out that he voluntarily opted out of the retirement system.
Councilman Sam Abney said the pay increase is “pennies on nickels.”
“Anyway, I don’t answer to you,” he told Gammon. After the meeting, he said Gammon is not a constituent because he lives outside the city limits.
The midyear boost follows a raise of 50 cents per hour for all city employees that was included in the budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.
That worked out to an average raise of 3.39 percent. City workers also got a 1.5 percent raise the previous fiscal year.
But city officials point out that workers are now required to pay the entirety of the employee contribution to their retirement plan, which effectively amounted to a 10 percent reduction in their take-home pay.
The recent raises bring workers almost back to their pay level prior to that change, Finance Director Sharon Howes said.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.