“There is no way on God’s green earth I would ever attempt to raise utility rates,” said Champagne, “so I have to find an alternative. And the only place we did not streamline costs was the Civil Service.
Champagne and City Clerk Christine Trahan began the task of reviewing each department and determined the cost of running the Civil Service averaged $37,500 a year (this number was reached by averaging the last seven years.)
Records indicate the cost of running that department went as high as $41,000 as low as $35,000.
The budget for the coming year is $43,000.
“We do not have enough employees to justify that kind of spending,” Champagne said. “With only approximately 54 civil service employees, I feel the money could be better spent elsewhere.”
The mayor also explained that larger entities such as the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Vermilion Parish Police Jury, the Vermilion Parish School Board, are not ruled by civil service.
The only other employer in parish to have civil service employees are the city of Abbeville.
“It’s strictly a cost saving measure,” the mayor said.
By law, the city is not mandated to be civil service. The guidelines state the population must be 10,000 or more with at least 150 employees.
The city adopted Civil Service in 1972 under then mayor Bennett Broussard and was passed by a resolution by the Louisiana Legislature under Act 333.
At the time, the director was a temporary job with the director doing the work at her home or at her personal full time job.
Fourteen years later, the job was made full time with the director eligible for benefits and an office.
Champagne said the civil service is expensive, and doesn’t meet the town’s needs. Civil service had its place before the 70’s, he said. Today, fair labor laws cover issues -- like conflict of interest, job issues – that the civil service system was established to prevent.
Any employee having an issue would still given due process. New hires would still go through the testing process with a hiring committee. This committee would consist of two councilman and the city clerk. They would interview the potential employee and make a recommendation to the mayor and full council where a vote would be taken.
“I was elected by the people and I am accountable for their money,” said Champagne. “I feel their money could be better spent in other places.”
The process to abolish civil service in the city began when the Kaplan City Council unanimously agreed to repeal Act 333 of 1972 and any other law mandating a system of municipal civil service for the city.
Before this can be brought before the Legislature, it had to be advertised twice. The city, however, missed the advertisement deadline for the bill to be introduced that year.
Because local laws are only introduced every other year, Champagne said the 2011 resolution is still valid and will be introduced in the Legislature this year by Representative Bob Hensgen.
Editor’s note: Next week, the Herald will speak with the proponents of civil service.