Proposal to raise minimum wage for LC city employees fails - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Proposal to raise minimum wage for LC city employees fails

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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

There was a proposal on the table at Wednesday night's Lake Charles City Council meeting to increase the minimum wage for city employees to $9.50 per hour. 

"What I'm asking for is that we look at moving our employees towards a living wage, which is $9.50," Mary Morris, Lake Charles City Council.

Lake Charles City Finance Director Karen Harrell explained that while the current minimum wage is $7.75 per hour, the lowest rate for full time city employees is $8.25 per hour. According to Harrell the wage is much higher when you include what the city pays for healthcare and retirement.

"So that equates to $13.40 an hour if you include their health insurance and retirement benefits," said Harrell.

To raise the rate to $9.50 per hour it would cost the city $1.25-million.

"It's a fairly expensive event. It's not to say that it isn't a great idea, but it would be a challenge to try and find these funds at this time," John Cardone, Lake Charles City Administrator.

Without a budget surplus, the money would come from the city's general fund. While it would not benefit Lake Charles Fire Fighters -- still working without a contract for more than two years -- they were there in support.

"All I'm saying is we need to start looking at that and making sure that we are really valuing our employees," said Morris.

"Miss Morris, we value our employees very much. And we do... We do want to pay our employees more," said Mayor Randy Roach, Lake Charles.

The City of Lake Charles currently pays half a cent less sales tax than the rest of the parish and does not charge residents for garbage collection. Some on the council think it may be time to consider these options.

"So we have to keep thinking of that and that can help these raises get there," said Dana Jackson, Lake Charles City Council. 

While some believe they are working within their means, Morris believes it will cost the city either way in the end.

"We would like to pay our employees more. But the bottom line is how do you afford it? We understand that taxes are not a popular thing in the mind of the public... We understand that nobody wants to pay more for anything because of the demands that families have today," said Mayor Roach.

"It's unfair and I think we need to move forward because we are going to lose a lot of our people and then we have to retrain and that costs extra money," said Morris.

The measure failed by a six to one vote. However, Councilman Mark Eckard suggested revisiting the issue when talks about next year's budget begin.

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