State lawmakers overwhelmingly approved another round of annual pay raises for Louisiana judges and, in effect, sheriffs over the next five years.
The legislation, pending the governor’s signature, gives judges a 2.5% pay hike on July 1, followed by annual 2.5% increases for each of the next four years following, provided the judicial system has sufficient funds to pay for the raises. Because sheriff salaries are tied to judges’ pay under state law, sheriffs are also eligible for the annual raises under the bill.
This comes after judges and sheriffs received five years of automatic raises from 2013 to 2017, approved by the Legislature in 2013. Sheriffs are also eligible for a 7% pay hike if they participate in the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Certification Program, which was approved by the Legislature last year and takes effect in 2020.
A provision in the 2019 bill, however, prohibits sheriffs from receiving the 2.5% increase during the same year they accept the 7% certification pay hike, as to prevent stacking the two raises in one year. Sheriffs can also decline the annual raises, as the money must come from their local budgets.
Still, over the next five years, sheriffs could see salaries increase up to 12.5% or 17%—if they participate in the certification program with the 7% raise and accept the 2.5% raises in the other four years.
State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, who sponsored both the 2013 and 2019 pay raise bills, says the annual increases are needed to keep Louisiana judges’ pay in line with the Southern average. The raises were recommended by the Judicial Compensation Commission, chaired by Martiny, and a 2018 report by economist Loren Scott. The report, though, does not address or recommend sheriff salary raises.
“Sheriffs work through the evenings and are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” says Louisiana Sheriffs Association Executive Director Mike Ranatza in an emailed response to questions about the pay raise legislation.
Sheriffs are often among the highest paid elected officials in their parishes. For example, East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux’s total compensation in 2017, including benefits, was $219,635, and his base salary of $179,277 was the highest of any sheriff in the state.
Gautreaux’s salary could increase by more than 17%—or by more than $39,000—by 2023 if he were to accept the annual 2.5% raises over the next four years and participate in the certification program with a 7% pay hike. The sheriff, however, could not be reached for comment as of this afternoon’s deadline.