Evangeline Parish Police Jury approves 2018 budget; grants additional pay raises

A contentious discussion broke during a second special meeting of the Evangeline Parish Police Jury Wednesday afternoon as the jury adopted the budget for 2018. The main item of contention was an additional pay raise for three employees of the office staff as well as the secretary-treasurer.
The budget matter began with Secretary-Treasurer Donald Bergeron reading the required budget letter. The letter in part stated, “In 2017, we believed that the local economy would begin to pick up and that Evangeline Parish would be well prepared to receive the recovery. Our prediction proved right as our General Fund revenue increased by $240,235.00. The jury did a good job managing expenses as total General Fund expenses were down by $27,000.00.”
“We were able to fund our general administration and most of our road employees with a five-percent pay raise. With a projected increase in sales and use tax, we should finish the year on a high note. All things considered, we feel that we have weathered the bottom of the downturn in the economy, and we’re looking forward to a good year in 2018.”
On top of the five-percent raise, Bergeron requested an additional raise for Karen Rider, Debbie Faught, and Rachel West. According to Bergeron, “this would bring their salaries more in line with other clerical employees with the same or comparable years of service.”
Bergeron stated that the total amount of the raises for the three employees along with himself “would bring those salaries to $146,192.00 plus benefits would bring it to $189,332.00.”
When asked by Juror Bryan Vidrine if the performance reviews were done according to policy, Bergeron responded, “We did not do performance reviews. We considered this more of a cost of living adjustment.”
To which Vidrine replied, “All raises according to our policy that we passed a few years back (are based) on individual performance reviews on every person. We passed a policy that every person is supposed to have a performance review. That goes from the bottom of the Totem pole to the top, and the reason for that is based on the fact that it is not good for people who are doing good to get the full raise and the people who’re not doing good to get the same raise.”
Bergeron then replied, “Unless you really have a very poor performing individual everybody usually scores the max on the performance reviews for the raise.”
“Then they are not being done correctly,” rebutted Vidrine. “I have nothing against any of our employees. I highly admire what they do, and I respect what they do. I also respect the position that I have, and I feel like we have to do what we feel is the right responsibility of our taxpayers.”
The banter between Bergeron and Vidrine continued and reached its climax when Vidrine point blank told Bergeron, “It’s not the jury’s duty to tell employees about a policy we have in existence each and every time that it comes to be in effect. I think it’s their personal duty to know what policies we have.”
Also dissenting to the additional raises was Juror Eric Soileau. Everybody can use a little more money,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that. This year we have a little extra money in the budget, but we’ve seen that go and come due to things out of our control. When we’re going to start giving people 15, 20, and 10 percent raises of the public’s money, we have to be very careful about that.”
In a consenting argument to the additional raises, Juror Rocky Rider stated, “Well, I believe in loyalty, and I believe in respect. These people have been here a long time.”
Vidrine made the motion to approve the budget for 2018 including the five-percent raise subject to the evaluation. The motion passed by a vote of 8-0.
Juror Daniel Arvie then offered a motion to approve the three staff raises including Bergeron. The motion passed by a vote of 5-3. Voting for the additional raises were Sidney Fontenot, Lamar Johnson, Daniel Arvie, Ryan “Leday” Williams, and Rocky Rider, and voting against the additional raises were Kevin Veillon, Eric Soileau, and Bryan Vidrine. Not voting as president was Ryan Ardoin.
Here is a breakdown of the additional raises: Karen Rider with 20 years of service is currently paid at a rate of $15.84. The five-percent raise increases it to a rate of $16.63, and the additional 13 percent increases it to $18.69. Debbie Faught with 19 years of service is currently paid at a rate of $15.22. The five-percent raise increases it to a rate of $15.98, and the additional 13 percent increases it to $18.26.
Rachel West with 10 years of service is currently paid at a rate of $13.87. The five-percent raise increases it to a rate of $14.56, and the additional 13 percent increases it to $15.26. With the additional raise, Donald Bergeron received a 15 percent raise on top of the five-percent. No total rate of pay for his position was given during the meeting. The Gazette previously learned that the 20 percent would bring his salary to an estimated $70,000.00.
In other business, the jury:
• reappointed Greg Monier on the Mamou Fire Protection District #1 Board for another two-year term.
• accepted a proposal for consultants to assist in the process for a watershed grant.
• approved the adoption of the proposed 2017 Amended Budgets.
• reviewed and accepted bids for materials and services for Fiscal Year 2018.
• and discussed changes to the IRS milage rates for 2018.

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