By Russell Rachal/Opinion
The Natchitoches Parish Council met in regular session on August 19, 2019.
There was an item on the agenda for the Council to consider adopting Ordinance 010-2019 allowing the residents of Natchitoches Parish to vote and make their own decision on whether they want to remain with the current form of Government, the Home Rule Charter, or go back to the Police Jury form of Government.
When presented, Councilman de Grafferied posed the question as to what the salary was going to be for each Police Juror if we reverted back to the Police Jury form of Government, and what the districts were going to be. The Parish Clerk and Councilman Paige advised that these items would be determined at a later date. After a lengthy discussion, the motion failed 3-2, with Council members Hoover, Bedgood, and Paige voting in favor, and Council members de Graffenried and Rachal voting in opposition. The motion required a two-thirds majority to pass, which would have required 4 members voting in favor.
The reason that I voted in opposition was because during the Special called meeting in June, when this Ordinance was introduced by title only, there was no mention of the repealing of the Home Rule Charter, no salaries, and no district lines being mentioned. Section 7-01 of the Home Rule Charter states that a petition to repeal or amend the charter must contain the full text of the proposed amendment, amendments, or repeal of the charter. There was never an Ordinance introduced to set any of these perimeters, although they were all listed in Ordinance 010-2019 for final passage.
In addition, Section 2-04 of the Home Rule Charter states the salary for a Council member shall be $500 per month. Council members shall not be entitled to fringe benefits including but not limited to health insurance, life insurance and retirement benefits. This sets the maximum cost to the Parish at $30,000 annually.
If we reverted back to the Police Jury form of Government, Louisiana Revised Statute 33:1233A(2)(b)(ii) states that the Police Jury, may elect, by a vote of a majority of the elected members, to be paid on a salary basis, in which event the maximum salary allowable shall be one thousand six hundred ($1,600) per month for each member of the Police Jury. A Police Jury may provide for an increase in the salary of a Police Juror serving as President of the Police Jury in an amount not to exceed four hundred dollars per month more than the salary established for members of the Police Jury. Louisiana Revised Statute 33:1233A(3) states that in addition to any other compensation or expense allowance provided by law, each parish governing authority which does not operate under a home rule charter may pay a monthly, itemized expense allowance, not to exceed two hundred dollars per month, to the members of the governing authority as payment for actual expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.
If the jurors were paid $1,600 each per month, plus the $200 expense allowance, this would total $21,600 each or $216,000 annually. If the Police Jury president was paid $2,000 per month, plus the $200 expense allowance, this would bring his total to $26,400 annually. If these were combined, this would be a cost of $242,400 to the Parish annually. This is not inclusive of the health insurance, life insurance, and retirement benefits the Police Jurors would receive. If you were to take the potential salaries of the Police Jurors and Police Jury President at $242,000 and subtract the current salaries of the Natchitoches Parish Council members at $30,000, you would see that we are saving the Parish $212,400 annually.
The Home Rule Charter sets the Parish President’s annual salary at $80,000. When you take into consideration that if we reverted back to the Police Jury form of government, it would constitute a position of Parish Administrator. Prior to the inception of the Home Rule Charter, the Parish Administrator’s salary exceeded the $80,000 salary that is afforded the Parish President under the Home Rule Charter.
Based on this information, if administered correctly, the Home Rule Charter form of government is the best of the two forms of government.
Thank you and God Bless you,
Natchitoches Parish Council