Durel submits budget, takes aim at consolidation

by Walter Pierce

"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."

City-Parish President Joey Durel submitted at $604 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year to the council Thursday evening - the start of a long process of budget hearings that commences Tuesday.

Durel's budget proposes devoting $2.5 million to raising the starting pay of the city's firefighters and police officers as well as a 2 percent hike in pay for all other employees of Lafayette Consolidated Government.

Notably, in his budget statement, Durel warned the council that our current form of consolidated government is not fiscally sustainable:

It should be clear to anyone examining the funding structure for the Parish that it is time for a change. The Parish General Fund and, in most cases, the Parish Dedicated Funds are simply too small to meet the parish's needs. There is a train wreck coming if something isn't fixed. We have to accept the fact that there is a problem, but there are solutions, some more realistic than others. It is beyond time for a serious discussion about possible, credible solutions. We should not put these issues on the backs of future generations.

One of the most basic principles by which we are expected to operate is that "government should operate within its means." Consolidation has allowed "parish" government to operate beyond its means, and has prevented "city" government from operating within its available means. Now that we have an understanding of what was done for years, we have properly corrected this from continuing into the future. The millions of dollars that leaked in Parish government have caused the City to build less infrastructure, hire fewer firemen, policemen, public works employees, as well as other personnel needed to provide for the needs of our community. Unfortunately, now that we have stopped most of the leaking, Parish government will have to deal with this reality.

I said two years ago that I did not like having to be the bearer of such difficult findings. Bus, as I said then, this is what the people who voted us into office expect of us as leaders, and we cannot be politicians who "kick the can down the road" so future elected officials are forced to deal with the problems we could prevent. I told you if you had criticism of my solutions I would accept them, but also expected you to offer your own solutions. There have been no other solutions offered.

The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better. We can start looking at various taxing districts for things like drainage, thereby letting people address their specific issues, and just raise taxes as is the usual, politicians' solution.

For more on the budget, read The Advocate's story here.