But that miniscule amount is the $12,000 Mayor Bob Morris wants his pay raised. And while his proposal did have some supporters, not but two of them have votes on the five-member council.
When the council reconvenes to again consider the budget, the pay raise will be in the final package only if Morris can persuade one of three council members to change his or her mind.
From their tone Tuesday night that seems improbable. Chawana Fontenot and Bubba Bourque are passionately against; Dale Soileau is the third no.
Jack Burson, an advocate for several years of increasing the mayor position’s salary, and Marguerite Fruge-Simpson, who said the council needs to do what is right, regardless of prior disputes with Morris and move on, favored the appropriation.
A public hearing prior to the council meeting set the tone of the salary debate. Only one speaker talked about anything other than the pay proposal.
Sanford Wood, active in two unsuccessful recall drives against Morris, reviewed a list of what he considers substandard job performance by the mayor.
“An increase in pay should be a reward for good performance. Bad performance should not be rewarded,” he said in urging a vote against any increase in salary and benefit package
Miguel Pousson said he has watched other mayors make do with the salary, which is $28,400 and was last changed in 1996. “I see no need to raise the pay at this time,” he said.
James “Junior” Bergeron, in an e-mail read in his absence by Alderwoman Chawana Fontenot, said “we, the citizens, feel a raise for the mayor is totally unjustified”, noting Morris vehemently opposed a raise for his predecessor.
Morris in May 2004 protested before the council a proposed raise for then-Mayor Lynn LeJeune.
He acknowledged that at Tuesday’s night’s meeting, saying he owed her an apology.
“Since I’ve been in office, I’ve come to realize what this job is ... 24 hours, seven days a week it is a job that consumes you,” he said.
Each council member, Morris and Police Chief Gary Fontenot took the floor on the salary subject.
Fontenot has a seat at the council table but does not vote. He recalled the stir when the council raised his pay several years ago from $22,000 to $30,000.
He asked the mayor and the council to take into account that he has employees under his direction who need more pay, but said that had nothing to do with the mayor’s position needing to be paid more.
“I think the mayor needs more. Everyone knows we butt heads on some things but I ask that the $12,000 be considered,” the chief said.
More pay for other employees, rather than for the mayor, was a priority for the three opposed to the Morris increase.
Bourque intended to propose a five percent increase across the board but that was delayed by discussion, initiated by Chawana Fontenot, of a three percent change. Both were delayed until a special meeting later this month to air the budget.
And Bourque’s proposed ordinance raising the mayor’s pay by $17,600 effective with the next term and ward aldermen and alderwomen $188 monthly to $771 at the same time was also laid over.
A survey by Burson shows the average area salary for mayors of cities is $56,000. The average ward alderman salary is $7,156. Eunice pays its ward representatives $7,120.
Burson’s at-large salary is $13,700, compared to the survey average of $8,452. The at-large pay is not included in Bourque’s package.
Though the majority was not prepared to give the mayor more money, the council was in a spending mood as it contemplated the budget.
At Fruge-Simpson’s request, it adopted an amendment to to add about $52,000 to library spending; it passed an amendment adding about $50,000 for two new police cars; and it was poised to strip the $12,000 for Morris and add $135,000 for a 3% raise for all or $250,000 for a 5% raise for everyone when Burson’s motion to table ended the feeding frenzy.
Actually, when Morris initially asked for a motion to introduce the budget ordinance, none of the five council members moved.
Despite the protracted discussion of pay and other issues, the budget itself never got to the floor.
A day and time has not yet been decided for the special budget meeting.
The sense of the move to table was that it would allow time for discussion between parties relative to the fiscal impact of various proposals.
By the time the council re-convenes the city may have heard whether it will get Community Block Grant funds for street improvements and will probably have the May sales tax report.
Members may also have had the time to consider whether they intend to roll back property tax millage in this year of property revaluation which has a revenue impact.