By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL – The Slidell City Council and Mayor Freddy Drennan were all smiles on Tuesday night at the regular council meeting as they passed the 2018 budget, which included substantial raises for city employees.
Drennan, starting the final year of his eight years as mayor, has consistently stated his interest to find more money for city employees. It was months ago that he commissioned a study for all city pay positions to understand more fully where they ranked in terms of pay, compared to similar positions in the region.
That led to Drennan proposing approximately $750,000 in additional Slidell spending for city raises in the 2018 budget that was unanimously approved by the City Council on Tuesday night.
Drennan explained that the study showed many of the Slidell city workers were substantially behind “regional or market pay scale.” So the proposed city budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins on July 1, will have varying raises for different city employees.
“Some of our employees will see annual raises that may be as much as $4,000 more a year, but all the employees will see a raise at some level,” he explained after the unanimous vote, followed by pats on the back from Drennan to the council, and then from council members back to the mayor.
“We wanted to adopt a better pay plan for our city workers and this new model for our employees is much appreciated,” Council President Jay Newcomb said, adding his thanks to Drennan and other council members for working together and approving the budget earlier than traditionally happens.
The mayor added, “this is an early approval for our budget and shows how well the council and administration worked together. Truthfully, the council and administration were united to get this done and it feels good to do this for our employees.”
On the average the city is giving all employees a 5.3 percent raise, although that varies greatly from one position to the other. In total, Drennan said it cost the city approximately $750,000 more to achieve the raises they sought.
He acknowledged that a number of city employees are still off the regional pay average that the study from Civil Service revealed, but he said the city did as much as possible at this point to improve the pay to those especially below the regional average.
“For those that were considerably below the regional average we brought them as far up as we could, as much as 25 percent higher,” he explained. “Everyone was evaluated and I think that considering our financial position we are in, the city did the best we could.”
The city bylaws also allow the mayor, chief of police and City Council to also receive a similar percentage raise any time the city employees get a raise. With the 5.3 percent average increase for city employees, the council also was given the option to approve similar raises for themselves, the mayor and council, which were all approved by 8-0 votes with no discussion or comments from the public.
In years past the top officials in the city have declined to accept the raises, but this year there were no comments to that effect as all were approved unanimously.
The mayor was earning $113,493 and will get a raise of $6,015 to bring his salary to $119,506; the chief of police was earning $102,251 and will get a raise of $5,419 to bring his salary to $107,668; and City Council members were earning $20,733 in what is considered part-time positions. They will each get a raise of $1,100 a year and now earn $21,832 each.