Jennings City Council considering whether to increase salaries for mayor, council members

Published 6:29 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Jennings City Council will decide later this month whether to increase the salary for the next mayor and council members.

The city council voted unanimously Tuesday to introduce a measure to increase the mayor’s annual salary from $75,000 to $85,000 effective after citywide elections in March. A $300 increase is also being proposed for council members increasing their salary from $6,000 to $9,600 annually.

If approved, the increases won’t go into effect until July 1, 2025, according to City Financial Advisor Greg Marcantel.

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“The reason for this is that you can only change the compensation for council members or the mayor every four years after the next election cycle,” Marcantel said.

It would be the first pay raise instituted for the council members since 1987. The last increase for the mayor was in 2020, he said.

After surveying nearby cities including DeRidder, Abbeville and Crowley to compare salaries for the mayor and council members, Marcantel recommended the mayor’s position be increased by $10,000 a year and that the city council pay be increased by $300 a month.

“I think that it needs to be increased to what is more in-line with what other communities pay around us,” Marcantel said. “Even at $9,600 for the councilmen, this would be on the low end of what those other cities pay and increasing the position of mayor from $75,000 to $85,000 would place the city in the middle of those other cities.”

The council will vote on the proposed increases at a special meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 25.

“This doesn’t mean that anyone in this room is going to receive a raise,” Councilman Clifton Lejeune said. “This is for the offices that we are currently sitting in, that we may or may not occupy next year.”

“If you were to hunt for a CEO to operate a business that had a $12 to $15 million operating budget with 120 employees you’d be hard pressed to offer him a job at $85,000 a year,” Lejeune continued. “I think the proposed salary for the mayor – not for Henry Guinn – but for the mayor, is absolutely in line with what our city should do.”

In addition, he said based on the consumer price index, the council members should be receiving $16,918 today based on its current salary of $6,000 set in 1987.

“This affects the office and when you look at it that way, this is the right thing to do….” Lejeune said.

Funds for the pay raises will come from the general fund budget.

Resident Megan Daigle urged the council to also consider a cost of living increase for first responders, department heads and other salaried employees.

She said she has received messages from city employees concerned about their salaries.

“They (city employees) are wondering how they are going to make ends meet,” she said. “You have police officers and firefighters that cannot afford to pay for their groceries. We have city employees that are making $35,000, $40,000 and $45,000 to feed a family.”

“If you are considering a raise for the mayor and city council, which is justly deserved, then I implore you to consider a raise for these others.”

An annual 2 percent longevity increase for civil service employees is a merit increase and not a cost of living adjustment, Daigle said.

City officials said the 2 percent state mandated longevity pay is included in the proposed pay plan and operating budget set to begin next month.

Resident Ray Touchet said he does not have a problem with council members getting a pay raise, but is concerned about the way the council does things.

Touchet said he has asked the council to return to meeting twice a month to allow for more discussions, but only Councilman Johnny Armentor agrees with him.

“Y’all don’t want to go back to the old way (having two meetings a month), but y’all want a raise,” Touchet said. “I’m not understanding that part.”

Touchet also questioned the hours of the mayor.

Mayor Henry Guinn said his office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., but he works 24/7 taking phone calls, attending meetings and representing the city at events.