All Lafourche Parish employees will return to a 40-hour work week in August, Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle announced this week.
Employee hours were reduced to 35 per week in March to save an estimated $1 million by the end of the year.
In the announcement released Tuesday, Cantrelle said the reduction was necessary after the Parish Council amended the 2018 budget. Employees will go back to 40-hour work weeks beginning Aug. 13.
“Items such as paying for contracts, servicing vehicles and equipment, paying for drug screens, supplies, travel and other daily working needs” were unfunded, Cantrelle said. “The council did this for the explicit written reason of putting these funds toward the solid waste shortfall.”
To pay for those operational items, Cantrelle said his administration had no choice but to reduce hours or instate layoffs. Interim Parish Administrator Tommy Lasseigne said previously that the cuts were saving about $68,000 a month.
During Tuesday’s council meeting, Chairwoman Luci Sposito called Cantrelle’s assertions “ludicrous” and “a violation of public trust.”
The council’s budget amendments only equated to about $300,000 of the $93 million budget, she said.
“You expect the public to believe that $300,000 in amendments that didn’t touch salary or benefits unhinged the $93 million budget?” Sposito said. “No one is believing this.”
Cantrelle did not respond to her criticisms.
In the Public Works Department, about 35 employees have resigned since hours were reduced, Councilman Daniel Lorraine said during the July 10 council meeting.
He requested the hours be restored immediately to all employees.
The administration has said that some employees in departments that are short staffed have been allowed to work up to 40 hours with their supervisor’s approval.
When Cantrelle announced the reduction, he said full hours would be restored once reinstatement of a 1-cent garbage sales tax was passed.
“Savings from the temporary reduction in combination with voter passage of the solid waste service tax this fall, would enable solid waste services to be fully funded, and the council would not have any need to supplement the solid waste fund by defunding operational needs with clear consequence,” Cantrelle said.
Because residents will not vote on the garbage tax until Nov. 6, the 2019 budget proposal will still include the projected $2.5 million shortfall for garbage collection.
“We are encouraged that the fiscal shortfall will be addressed by voters with the passage of the solid waste service tax,” Cantrelle said.
During the annual budgeting process, the parish administration recommends a budget to the council. The council can then make amendments to the budget, but it cannot pass a budget in which expenses exceed revenue.
Once the council passes a budget, the parish president can veto any amendments that were made, but the council has the opportunity to override his vetoes.
During the 2018 budget process, the council presented over 200 budget amendments, which Cantrelle vetoed. Most of those were overridden by the council.
“We are committed to the Lafourche Parish government employees and the taxpayers to make sure revenues and expenses are accounted for so that we can operate with maximum efficiency,” Cantrelle said.
-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @gingerale214.
Posted on Fri, July 27, 2018
by By Julia Arenstam Daily Comet Staff Writer