Pettit: Demand Council action on bloated payroll

Ascension’s Council is the Governing Authority for our parish responsible for enacting legislation to be executed by the administration.  The council must appropriate every dollar spent by the parish president.  Ascension’s council has ceased to function as anything but a rubber stamp for whatever expenditure the whim of President Kenny Matassa conceives as parish accounts are his personal repository from which to purchase votes and dispense political patronage.

And the council does nothing, failing even to ask meaningful questions.

Comparing employee rosters from the beginning of his reign to the present should cause a collective gasp from the governing authority instead of the DEAD SILENCE we’ve all come to expect.  Not surprising given that eight of them endorsed Matassa in 2015…

The parish payroll has skyrocketed by over 30%, increasing by almost $5.5 million without factoring in all those ancillary costs (health insurance, retirement, additional equipment, etc.).  If we, the taxpaying citizens of Ascension Parish, were receiving that much more in increased services there would still be cause for alarm.  But we aren’t and an outside firm is needed, at a cost of $4.25 million since last September, to maintain ditches and culverts (On-Grade Construction’s contract is set to be increased at tomorrow’s EA Drainage Board meeting).

To be clear, I am in favor of spending the funds necessary to maintain our roadside ditches, an important part of the parish’s drainage network.  But spending that kind of money to a private company should mean a reduction in manpower, not a 34% increase in personnel.

What do Ascension’s 214 Maintenance Technicians, up from 190 in January, maintain?  What do 45 Supervisors supervise?  Why haven’t council members ever asked these questions?

Every member of the parish council is complicit, none more so than the chairman of the Personnel Committee whose failure to investigate a bloated roster of employees jeopardizes the future of generations to come.  Where is the cost benefit analysis?  Speaking of benefits, have they been calculated into the cost of every new employee?

In the private sector, total employees costs of salary plus benefits typically fall in the 1.2 to 1.4 times base salary range (so add another couple of million to the payroll increase).  The payroll increase, multiplied by a factor of 1.4 yields the true cost, more than $9 MILLION.  That is more than the parish’s annual road maintenance budget.

In May 2017 SSA Consultants’ Dr. Christel Slaughter, hired to do an Efficiency/Effectiveness study for a couple of hundred thousand dollars, told the council (sitting as Finance Committee):

“You’re a wealthy parish, you’ve got money in reserves.  If you had a bad guy sitting in the parish presidency with the way you do things now, you could double your workforce and you’d have to hear about it from somebody or you’d have to see a whole lotta’ people in Ascension Parish garb walking around on the payroll.”

SSA’s Slaughter hosting fundraiser to pay off Matassa’s legal bills

Since then 113 new employees have been added, from 430 to 543.  It’s not double but Matassa still has six months to go.

“(Ascension’s retirement) is a marvelous benefit to your employees,” raved Dr. Slaughter who also noted the parish’s health plan and other benefits have served to attract and retain employees.

Dr. Christel Slaughter (courtesy of Channel 21)

“Ascension Parish has the 3rd largest retirement system in the State of Louisiana.”

Already accrued retirement benefits, over $3 BILLION, were ““virtually fully funded (98.4%)” according to the good doctor.  But that was over 100 employees ago.

As Dr. Slaughter said, we are a wealthy parish, enjoying industrial investment and a school system the envy of 63 others.  Boom times never last, and every bubble bursts at some point.

What are we leaving for our children and grandchildren?

Among the council’s Home Rule Charter powers is that to:

“Require periodic and special reports from all parish officers concerning the affairs of their respective departments…(to) Make investigation of parish affairs and make inquiries into the conduct of any department, office, agency…”

Is that too much to demand of your council representative?

 

Jeff Pettit, Candidate

Council District 10

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