By Paige Nash
The Webster Parish Police Jury opened the discussion at last month’s meeting regarding the current pay for the Webster Parish Public Works Department. After July’s meeting, a small committee was formed to deliberate on the matter further. After much consideration, they decided the road crew and office employees should receive a $2 an hour raise effective immediately, pending approval by the complete jury.
This will bring the starting pay for new hires from about $11/hour to $13/hour.
This department is an extension of the police jury and oversees the preservation of roads, parks, trails and some city streets in the form of trash pick-up, water treatment and road repairs. It relies heavily on laborers and truck drivers.
They have been having a hard time hiring and keeping employees on crew and recently lost two employees to neighboring parishes that have been able to offer higher starting pay. This decision to present and approve the raise was crucial in order to compete with parishes like Bienville and Claiborne.
“We have lost a couple of guys to Bienville Parish, so we looked to see how we compared to our surrounding parishes. This would get us comparable to Bienville and Claiborne. We would still be a little bit behind Bossier,” said WPPJ President, Jim Bonsall.
The public works department has been stretched thin with more work than the current crew can handle. As of last month, they were down to a total of 18 employees from the usual 28. Instead of having so many employees on staff, the jury decided to cut the number of employees and use those leftover funds to pay new hires and current employees a higher wage.
Nobody will be in jeopardy of losing their jobs. Instead of looking to fill the current 10 vacancies, they will now only be hiring 4-6 new employees and spread those funds out among them.
The decided-on amount of a $2 raise ended up being within the already approved budget, but if by chance it happened to be more, the jury decided they would use the severance tax to cover the overage.
Severance tax is a state imposed tax or fee on the extraction or production of oil, gas and other natural resources.
Bonsall said, “I propose to take that money out of the severance tax. We are living on $850,000 right now and have been for two years, but I believe it is going to go back up. At the end of the year when we start doing our budget, we will really look at this closer. We have some money budgeted that we aren’t spending, let’s give this money to those guys that are showing up. Let’s reward them.”
The proposal passed unanimously.