School district employee argues for higher wages, back pay

Published 3:44 pm Friday, March 17, 2023

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VIDALIA, La. — Concordia Parish School Board’s business manager told school board members he has been paid unfairly for his workload and requested compensation during Thursday’s board meeting.

The Concordia Parish School Board decided to give teachers bi-monthly instead of monthly paychecks beginning July 1, 2022.

Fred Marsalis Jr., who is the business manager for the school district and oversees payroll, said issuing 24 paychecks instead of 12 to the district’s 500-plus employees doubles the workload for his department. The school board previously agreed on a $5,000 stipend for the additional workload, but Marsalis was not included in the stipend.

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“It was my understanding from those conversations from the board that everybody involved with the additional duties would be taken care of,” Marsalis said.

He argued each employee in his department received compensation except for himself.

He also said that every other department has a separate pay schedule for employees who hold a specialist degree, a master’s degree or a doctorate degree except for his department and his position.

Marsalis requested a salary scale adjustment, three years of back pay for the years he has worked while holding two degrees and a one-time stipend of $5,000 for the additional workload brought on by the bi-weekly pay.

“I hold a Louisiana state certification and two degrees,” he said, adding he is paid on the same scale as someone with a trade school certification and has been employed with the district since 2016. “When I talked to the previous superintendent about that, it was negated and it never escalated. But after seven years It comes to a time when you have to address things. I’m not trying to seem selfish, but at the same time, no one in my department is going to stand up for me. So, I’m standing up for myself.”

School Board President Fred Butcher said he requested the school board attorney to be present for any discussion of back pay for an employee.

Management positions are not entitled to overtime pay whereas lower-level employees are, the board’s attorney Bob Hammonds said.

He also said it is “unconstitutional” for the board to back pay any employee who has already been paid correctly based on the district’s pay schedule, but the board may vote to increase the pay schedule going forward.

“I’m sorry could you repeat that?” Butcher said to Hammonds.

“Yes, under Louisiana law, retroactive pay is unconstitutional,” Hammonds repeated. “… The question is going to be, every time you have a payroll case: Did you pay the employee what your salary schedule called for the employee to receive? If you did and you back pay them retroactively for the work they’ve already done, that would be a prohibited donation. That would be a violation of the Louisiana constitution.”

Marsalis raised his hand from the audience after he had made his presentation, asking if he could ask a question of the attorney. However, Butcher cut him off with the gavel and said, “I gave you your time,” and asked Marsalis to contact the attorney after the board meeting.

Board member Matt Taunton made the motion that the matter of increasing Marsalis’ salary go to the board’s finance committee before the next board meeting and Derrick Carson seconded his motion. It passed by a vote of 7-1 with Butcher casting the lone “nay” vote.

Newly-elected school board member Fred Marsalis Sr. recused himself from discussing and voting on any issues regarding Marsalis Jr.’s pay because they are father and son.