A motion to request Terrebonne Parish schools' superintendent and staff to look into possible avenues to increase pay for non-instructional staff has failed.
Board member Matthew Ford, who initially proposed the idea in July, made the motion, saying he wanted the board to have a "serious dialogue" about the proposed 5% raise.
The motion failed during Tuesday's board meeting with five votes against. Just Ford, Gregory Harding, Mike Lagarde and Roger DeHart voted in favor of asking the school district staff to research it for the 2020-21 school year. DeHart had seconded the motion.
Ahead of the vote, Ford said he plans to continue to bring the issue back to the board.
"I'm going to do this and I'm going to be relentless with it every month if I have to," he said.
Board member Clyde Hamner, who voted against the motion, said he believes every member would like to see a raise for all of the district's employees.
"I want to give all of our employees the best competitive salary that we can give," said Hamner, noting that the cost can't cut into services for students or employee benefits.
He added, "Any salary increase would have to be for all employees as all are deserving."
That sentiment was echoed by Harding, who noted that historically the school district has given raises across the board rather than a particular segment. Though, he added, he's open-minded.
Lagarde said that while he supports raises, he questioned how the district would come up with the estimated $1.2 million necessary to provide a 5% raise to all non-instructional staff.
He had made a proposal over the last few months to try to give staff the option to be paid twice a month rather than only once a month. The estimated increased cost to the payroll department for that proposal was about $207,000.
"And you're talking $1.2 million?" said Lagarde. "I wish you luck."
Board president Debi Benoit said she felt the issue had been discussed thoroughly when Ford initially proposed it. She said the board's top priority is creating its first facilities master plan.
"I think we need to wait and see what that is going to develop into before we look at any other additional money that we have to put into other areas," she said.
She also questioned whether Ford had a conflict of interest by proposing a raise for non-instructional staff as the additional salary could benefit his household income because he currently lives with an elementary school secretary.
Ford called her suggestion "silly," adding that he'd forgo his salary as a board member if it meant providing a raise for all of the district's non-instructional staff.
He said by dating his girlfriend, he has seen "just how bad it is for some of these employees."
In the past, he's noted that several of the support staff who work longer contracts than teachers still only make $19,000 to $22,000.
Terrebonne Parish School Board's committee meetings will take place at 5 p.m. Sept. 17.
Staff Writer Halle Parker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 857-2204. Follow her on Twitter, @_thehalparker.