LAFAYETTE, LA — In the next Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) meeting, four public pay raises are on the agenda, and each goes beyond what local government can afford with annual revenue alone.
Lafayette Fire Department Chief Robert Benoit says, “The pay affects everything.”
When the Lafayette City-Parish Council started moving forward on a larger police pay plan meant to retain officers, they asked Chief Benoit to draft a pay plan as well.
The Lafayette Fire Department’s last sweeping pay raise was during the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Chief Benoit says making firefighter payment competitive is one of his main responsibilities, “My job is to make sure that the public remains safe, that the firefighters have what they need to do their job and that they’re receiving a decent wage.”
In addition to a $3.8M police pay plan and $2.6M fire pay plan, Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux is introducing a $137K City Marshal raise and a 5% pay raise for all LCG employees.
In all this, there is one glaring problem. “Where are you going to fund it?”, asks District 5 Councilman Jared Bellard.
According to Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups, if just the police pay plan passes, LCG is already $15M over-budget and will run out of reserve funds in five years. If everything passes, that general fund will run out a full year sooner.
Bellard says, “That is the biggest question. What do we need to cut to make these things happen, or do these things need to happen right now with the current status of our economy?”
Councilman Bellard says he doubts the council will consider raising taxes. He is proposing one step to make up some money, a hiring freeze that would eliminate all unfilled government positions apart from first responders and the Lafayette Utility System (Bellard says he needs someone on the utility board to propose a hiring freeze in that area).
Bellard told News 10, “I think the biggest struggle that we are going to have when voting on these items is who’s going to suffer? What cuts do you make?”
Chief Benoit says even though his department isn’t losing as many people as the police force is now, the city shouldn’t wait until they do to solve the problem, “Hopefully on that night it will be a positive conversation about facts and about what’s realistic and how much do you believe in public safety.”
The next Lafayette City-Parish Council Meeting is Tuesday, November 5.