At first glance, this Saturday's election hardly seems to be a pivotal one. No elected officials, new taxes or constitutional amendments are at stake. But the votes cast this weekend on four tax renewal propositions have serious implications for the parish and its future ' and The Independent Weekly encourages a yes vote on all four of the propositions. The taxes to be voted on are all renewals, and will not cost parish residents any extra money. In addition, the funds generated from these taxes are all dedicated toward vital services, including the basic upkeep of our fire stations, public jail and courthouse, as well as the continued revitalization of Lafayette's downtown business district.
These propositions do not amount to a heavy burden for individual taxpayers but are critical for our government. Were the tax renewals to fail, the effect on the city-parish budget would be significant ' even "devastating," says Dee Stanley, Lafayette Consolidated Government's chief administrative officer.
In the case of the parish courthouse and jail, the funds generated by the taxes now up for renewal are already insufficient for the upkeep required of these aging buildings. Consequently, the parish general fund subsidizes these two operations. Losing any of the dedicated revenue streams on the ballot would place more of a burden on our parish's general fund, giving LCG less means to manage the growing needs of the parish.
Already, local government is struggling to maintain basic services within our rapidly developing parish. Our police department has been understaffed. Several road and drainage projects remain long overdue. City leaders heard the message from Lafayette voters' overwhelming rejection of two new tax proposals last November: live within your means. The money generated by these renewals does just that and needs to be sustained to allow our government to do its job. Here's a look at each tax renewal:
Parishwide Proposition (Parish courthouse and jail complex tax renewal)
This tax renewal goes solely toward the parish courthouse, which used to also house the jail on its top floor. Most voters are probably familiar with the many safety and security concerns facing this 45-year-old building. This property tax of 2.34 mills, up for a 10-year renewal, helps fund its escalating maintenance and operating expenses. Generating an estimated $2.5 million a year, the tax will not fund any expansions or capital improvements of the current facility.
Parishwide Proposition (Parish minimum security detention and correctional facility tax renewal)
Like the courthouse tax, this property tax of 2.06 mills is solely dedicated to maintenance and operations of the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center and generates an estimated $2.2 million a year. Now a 25-year-old facility, the parish jail faces its own growing maintenance and operating expenses, and this fund helps offset those costs. The importance of keeping LPCC in good working order should speak for itself.
City of Lafayette Proposition
This property tax of 1.13 mills on all city property generates an estimated $975,000 a year and will only appear on ballots for voters within the city limits. It's a small price to pay when you consider its vital function: According to the city-parish public works department, this millage supports the maintenance and operation of an estimated 130 public buildings, including all city fire and police stations.
Commercial Core Sub-district of the Lafayette Centre Development District Proposition (Property tax continuation)
This property tax of 10.91 mills is only for property owners within the downtown Commercial Business District, which includes approximately 700 businesses. This is the first renewal for this tax, which was first approved in 1993 and created the downtown district. Downtown has come a long way in that time, and it would be foolish to stop that progress. The tax generates an estimated $335,000 a year, revenue that goes toward services ranging from security and trash removal to business recruitment and promotion to public events like Downtown Alive! We can only hope that the voters affected by this renewal remember what downtown Lafayette was like before Streetscape started the ongoing revitalization of our central business district.