Parish employees will get a 3 percent cost-of-living (COLA) raise in the 2023 budget that the Parish Council approved at its meeting Monday.
There was discussion on whether to give COLA versus merit raises. Council member Chris Paige said people in general were “hurting” because of the economy and it was difficult to keep good employees. He said he preferred COLA raises if the money was available. There were no COLA raises in the 2022 budget.
Chairman John Salter asked about raising starting salaries of trash bin employees whose starting salary is listed in the employee manual at minimum wage which is now $7.25 per hour. Human Resources Coordinator Cathy Creamer said raising the starting salary would require amending the personnel handbook but that could be done. She said some compactor station employees make more than minimum wage because they have received COLA raises.
At past meetings, Salter said COLA raises benefitted higher paid employees and not those lower on the pay scale.
Paige offered that paying minimum wage to bin employees was “designed that way” when the program began since the jobs were meant to be part-time. That’s why those employees receive no benefits and have a starting salary of minimum wage.
Council member Bill Allen said he thought the council’s responsibility was to approve or disapprove the budget and let supervisors “operate the system” and decide on raises.
He advocated conducing an annual wage survey and working to retain good employees.
Parish President John Richmond reported that La. DOTD has appropriated $4.3 million for bridge replacement in the parish in 2023. La. DOTD will select the bridges from a list previously submitted and approved by the Parish Council.
Richmond asked the council to consider approving a request from Gov. John Bel Edwards to allow emergency housing to be placed adjacent to an occupant’s dwelling in the aftermath of a disaster. It will require the council to waive land use regulations.
The council unanimously approved the proposal.
There were votes to introduce two ordinances.
The first was to amend the density restriction in Natchitoches Parish and participating municipalities. It allows no more than two dwelling units on a parcel of land zoned Industrial Agriculture. It previously allowed only one. Additional dwelling placements will require subdivision of the parcel. Dwelling units pertain to single-family units, manufactured homes, mobile homes, house trailers, barn-dominiums, portable buildings built for living and other structures used as dwellings.
The second was a zoning change from I-A to B-3 for a nightclub at 6539 Hwy. 71 in Clarence.
There were public hearings on two ordinances that were introduced at the September meeting. They were approved during the regular session that convened after the public hearings.