Will Vidalia board reduce mayor’s pay?

Published 11:50 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Editor’s note: The following article misstated Alderwoman Sabrina Doré’s statement on the mayor’s salary. This article has been modified to reflect Doré was questioning Alderman Robert Gardner.

VIDALIA — Vidalia aldermen approved an ordinance Tuesday the town technically was supposed to have enacted last year, but not before discussing decreasing Mayor Buz Craft’s salary.

Town Attorney George Murray said state law requires aldermen to fix the salaries of the mayor, board of aldermen, city clerk and chief of police. Murray said the ordinance should have been in place by July 2016 when payments started to be made to the different positions.

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At last month’s meeting, Craft brought the matter to the board following the Town of Ferriday’s recent investigative audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office. Ferriday was cited for not having an ordinance filed that fixed the salaries of the town clerk, mayor, aldermen and police chief.

Ferriday has since approved the ordinance fixing the salaries.

Vidalia aldermen delayed the decision a month to get information on what the salaries for the various positions were 10 years ago. That information is not required for the ordinance.

Alderman Robert Gardner asked Murray if the ordinance had to “fix” the salaries, as to him that meant they were set in stone. Murray said the language is per state law and the salaries are set in stone for the four-year term.

Alderman Tommy Probst then asked Murray what the board would have to do to decrease any of the elected official salaries.

Murray said if aldermen wanted to decrease the salaries for next term, it would require an ordinance be in place beforehand.

Alderwoman Sabrina Doré said the state attorney general’s office has released two opinions on decreasing an elected official’s salary. One opinion requires a year prior to the next election and another asks for two years.

Gardner said the salaries should not be set in stone.

“Someone else may come in and the board may not feel like the mayor or police chief should be getting those funds,” Gardner said.

Doré asked Gardner for clarification if he meant a newly elected mayor should not start out the rate of pay —$82,931 — as the previous mayor, who had been in the position for decades. Gardner said her assessment was correct.

The aldermen did not specifically mention Craft or ask him that night to cut his salary, but previously some aldermen, including Doré, had asked him to cut his administrative budget by 10 percent.

Craft said he knew aldermen wanted him to cut his salary by 10 percent.

“I’ll be glad to talk about it,” he said. “When I decided to run, I saw what the salary was.

“I thought the town needed a change, and I like to think I’m doing a better job than the previous administration. I feel like I deserve it.”

Craft said the previous mayor took town health insurance, and he does not. If Craft took the family health insurance plan, he said it would cost the town $18,000.

Craft said a 10 percent pay cut would be $8,300, so he said even without taking a cut he was saving the town money compared to the previous administration.

“If you want me to take the cut, I will consider the cut for 10 percent if y’all do the same,” Craft said. “And if the aldermen give up the insurance.”

Two aldermen are on the family insurance plan the mayor referenced. Gardner previously mentioned he did not take the town’s insurance to save the town money.

Per year, aldermen make $8,428, the town clerk $75,490 and police chief $72,406.