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|Police Jury adopts $4.7 million budget; 25% pay hike for jurors, 3% for workers|
The Concordia Parish Police Jury approved a $4.7 million budget Monday night that included a three percent pay raise for employees and a 25 percent pay raise for jurors.
Following public hearings on the 2009 budget and the Jury pay hike, jurors approved both measures. The budget was approved unanimously but the juror pay raise was opposed by Randy Temple and Whest Shirley.
Temple, who serves as chairman of the Finance Committee, said he felt it was fiscally irresponsible for the Jury to raise its pay at a time when the economy is in a recession even though the Jury is expected to have a $1.5 million surplus.
Other jurors said they spend 20-plus hours a week or more tending to Jury business as one reason they supported the pay hike.
Jurors upped their pay on Monday by $400 monthly and also provided the Jury president with a $400 monthly stipend.
"I don't be begrudge the president's $400 per month," said Temple. "He deserves it."
He said Melvin Ferrington, who serves as Jury president, "is retired and spends a lot of time at the courthouse, probably as much as a full-time mayor."
But he said he didn't think the Jury could justify raising it's pay from $1,200 monthly to $1,600, a $43,200 combined annual cost. That amount rises to $48,000 when the $4,800 annual allocation for the president's position is added. That post previously did not include a stipend.
"It just doesn't make good economic sense with the bleak outlook of our national, state and local economy," said Temple. He said jurors had originally looked at a 10 percent pay raise for employees, but reduced it to three percent.
"That 10 percent raise, when you add the fringes, amounted to a 16 percent hike," he said.
Willie Dunbar supported the pay raise.
"I put in a lot of hours on Jury business," he said. "I travel a lot and have a lot of vehicle expense. We don't get travel time, insurance or retirement. We have the money in the budget. If we didn't I would not have supported it."
Jimmy Jernigan also supported the raise.
"The Legislature said we could have this pay raise and jurors haven't had one in nine years," said Jernigan. "I go and see the people in my district all the time. If they have a complaint and need to see me I go. I've been on the Jury five years and have missed only four official meetings. We also meet for other reasons with constituents and on other matters."
He said the pay raise was advertised and that not one objection was raised during the public hearing Monday night.
"If there had been opposition, this would not have passed," said Jernigan. "If we were in a financial bind, not one juror would have supported it."
Although the Jury will end this fiscal year with a projected surplus of $1.5 million, Temple said he feared that surplus could disappear if the Jury isn't careful with its money during the poor economic times.
He said the Jury received $912,000 in severance tax income this past year, although part of that amount was money due from the year before.
State law places an $800,000 cap on severance tax income for police juries.
"We don't know what crude oil will do," he said. "Our millage and our general fund is the exact as last year in dollars and we rolled back the millage. But on the pay issue, that's something that we can't decrease. Once done, that pay raise for jurors must remain in effect throughout our present terms."
Whest Shirley, who also opposed the raise, said he is concerned about many factors, including making sure "we can pay our bills."
In other business, the Jury:
-- Approved a franchise transfer from Charter Communications to Cable South Media3 LLC. A company representative told jurors he would work to improve employee communications with the public.
-- Voted to pay the law firm of Davenport, Files & Kelly $6,513.97 for services related to litigation involving the Blain Companies over the Phase 1 hardsurfacing program.
-- Agreed to pay Bryant Hammett & Associates $902.51 for engineering services.
-- Approved paying $776.37 to the Concordia Economic Development District.
-- Granted an occupational license to Derrick Johnson, Sportsman Lodge, LLC, 101 Sportsman Lane, Ferriday.
-- Voted to send a letter to the owners of Shamrock Plantation requesting they clean up their property located on the backside of Lake St. John.
-- Appointed Dorothy Dew and Judy Pugh to the Concordia Parish Fire District 2 Board.
-- Approved the Town of Clayton's request that Jury crews mow the town's sewer lagoon lot.
-- Okayed the payment of expenses for the October 4 election totaling $2,773.42.
-- Approved transfers of $1,875 from the Solid Waste Fund to the General Fund; $7,800 from the Sales Tax Fund to the General Fund; $2,000 from the Highway Maintenance Fund to the General Fund; $5,000 from the Drainage Maintenance Fund to the General Fund; $48,000 from the Sales Tax Fund to the Solid Waste Fund; and $50,000 from the Sales Tax Fund to the Highway Maintenance Fund.
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