Council Q&A Part 2: TIFs, public-private partnerships

by Independent Editors

Today's query concerns methods government uses to fund priorities when there isn’t enough cash to cover them.

[Editor's Note: Responses from Charlotte Clavier (District 2) and Monique Koll (5) were added to this Q&A on Tuesday, Oct. 6.]

In mid-September, The Independent sent a questionnaire to candidates seeking seats on the City-Parish Council — incumbents and challengers, 17 candidates total. Thirteen questions were asked of the candidates, ranging from general queries about big issues facing the parish to specific questions on topics such as tax increment financing districts and Downtown zoning.

We’ve gotten responses back from about half of them, and as we get more responses we’ll continue to compile them and alert readers when new responses have come in. We will group candidates by district to promote ready comparisons of candidates’ position by the voters who will elect them (and alphabetically within districts). We’ve only lightly edited for clarity the candidates’ responses; some use bullet points while others stick to prose, some are lengthy as others are brief, etc., but otherwise the responses are as we received them. Because many of the responses are lengthy, we’re running the questionnaire in installments. Part 2, today, concerns methods government uses to fund priorities when there isn’t enough cash to cover them.
What is your opinion on tax increment financing districts (TIFs), PILOTS and similar financial instruments? Can they be used judiciously, as we believe was the case with the Target-anchored development at Louisiana Avenue and I-10? If so, what are some good examples or bad examples and why?**

The Target/Academy Sports-anchored TIF at Louisiana Avenue and Interstate 10
Google Earth


I do support TIF’s and believe they are a great tool to use to develop an area where services are needed. The Louisiana Avenue TIF was a great TIF and the continuation of that TIF will allow for more development in that area where it is needed. A TIF should not be used to build buildings or parking lots, this is the developer’s job. The COSTCO Pilot will be very beneficial to Lafayette through sales tax collections and the number of jobs that will be created. This PIOLT will keep Lafayette very competitive with surrounding areas. It will bring people from other parish’s to shop and eat in Lafayette.


I think the TIF district in the Target area on Louisiana Avenue worked well because there were no existing businesses in the area. In order for these districts to be judicious they need to include those projects the local existing businesses would think are necessary for the area. Those businesses are collecting the taxes for the district and should have input in the outcome of that initiative.


I believe that the first thing that needs to be asked when deciding about TIFs and other financial instruments is can the development occur without the TIF. My guess is the city might not have had the resources without the TIF. However, I wouldn’t want to overuse them. The bad part about TIFs and similar financial instruments is that consumers pay a higher tax. However with that 1% increase, we can bring new businesses to our area and with new business we bring new jobs and a better quality of life for our citizens.


I believe they can be used judiciously, as long as they are not overused. Areas around interstate exits are typically good candidates for sales tax districts, because they offer an opportunity to capture “visiting” money rather than further slicing the same sales tax pie. I’d also like to explore possible Business Improvement Districts—which have been employed successfully in New Orleans among other cities—along some of our key corridors to expedite beautification initiatives and cover future maintenance of those projects.


Money going toward specific projects should directly help the places the people paying them utilize. The people need to be able to have the opportunity to fully understand what the money is being used for, and have a say in how it’s spent.


I believe that TIFs can be used effectively when in alignment with the original intent of the financial program, which is to redevelop a blighted area that would not otherwise attract development. This was the situation with the example of the Target-anchored development. It does not make sense to use TIF for growing areas that would attract development without financial assistance. It is also imperative that TIF districts be drawn logically. I approve the use of PILOTs when applied to non-profit organizations and federal or state utilized property. I do not support the use of PILOT for commercial endeavors, with the Costco development as an example.


I was on the 2004-08 Lafayette Council which created the I-10 / Louisiana TIF in an effort to encourage commercial and retail development in that region. We also established an overlay district to assure quality development between Pont des Mouton and Willow Street. Both are excellent examples of how to do a successful TIF. There is a critical need for an established policy / guideline for consideration of TIFs in the future.

TIFs are created by an elected governing body; whereas PILOTS can be established by the non-elected / appointed Industrial Development Board. There must a thorough analysis of how it impacts all government bodies and their property tax generated revenue and whether they, as elected officials, are in support.


These financial instruments can be used judiciously to effectively stimulate blighted areas. However, it is important that we use them cautiously because of the impact they can have on other entities that use revenue generated from those areas.


All forms of specialized financing, whether TIF’s, PILOTS, or others, should be openly debated and voted on by the public. Generally, I consider these types of financing for only the most critical projects. The Louisiana Avenue example is a project that I would have seriously considered, depending on the details.


I plan to review each one as it comes to me as it must answer yes to the following 3 questions 1) will it create/bring significant jobs to our community and encourage economic devolvement? 2) Will it improve our infrastructure? 3) Is this filling a void in our community? It must answer yes to all 3 before I will consider discussing further. A good example is the PILOT Program at Costco.


I don’t think there is a simple “for” or “against” answer for these types of financial instruments. In certain circumstances, they can be a viable option, but the people need to have a voice on what taxes they would be willing to pay in order to reap the benefits of such instruments.


Everyone cites the Target TIF on LA Avenue because 1) It was the classic example of a blighted and/or underserved area; 2) It was approved before anyone was really aware of the implications of TIF districts; 3) It included a one-cent sales tax give back from the state, which will never happen again. But that TIF was supposed to act as a catalyst for other private development -- it did not --and so the extension of that TIF was hurriedly pushed through just before it was set to expire on April 30 of this year. There’s only one PILOT in Lafayette that I would support -- the one in place for LUS, which pays in lieu of taxes about 22 million a year back to the city general fund. The other PILOT recently approved by the IDB is nothing more than a giveaway of $11.5 million tax dollars to a commercial developer to put in a road that will do little, as promoted, to relieve traffic on Ambassador Caffery. These types special tax schemes erode trust in government.

Are you generally in favor of public-private partnerships and what types do you favor and/or oppose?


I generally support public/private partnerships if the public benefit serves all segments of the public. A good example is a parking garage.


All business involves some type of Public-Private Partnership. Those partnerships should be transparent so the public is aware of the details.

LEWIS (3): I am in favor of public-private partnerships, as long as there is open transparency with all transactions and plans. It’s important that the partnership genuinely benefits our community as a whole. Strong partnerships are based on finding the right alignment of interests, which is why it is essential to understand what makes a project appealing to private sector investors. For example, the Kiwanis’s provided a multitude of playground equipment to the Lafayette Parks and Recreation. This was a great benefit to the children of Lafayette Parish.

PETERSEN (3): I’m generally in favor. Our best investment is in our people, so when a partnership with the private sector will lead to increased tax receipts or increased efficiency of services, those opportunities should be considered as possible sound investments.

KOLL (5): There are so many types of P3s, and it depends on the nature of the business on which one is best suited for it and which I would support.

CHAISSON (6): I feel that public-private partnerships can be mutually beneficial. The government may use resources and man-power provided by a private entity to run more efficiently, especially when the private entity has already invested time and money to research issues and possible solutions. As with any governmental endeavor, the process must be straightforward. LCG must not have a conflict of interest with the private entity.

CONQUE (6): Yes. The Central Park at The Horse Farm initiate is a great example. How could we apply this strategy to support arts, culture and recreation, for example?

ZELLER (6): While PPPs are attractive because they are viewed as improving government services at more cost-effective rates, there are many challenges that must be considered, such as risk sharing, reliability, accountability and security, to name a few.

COOK (7): I generally oppose government picking winners and losers via public-private partnerships. Government intervention in the economy, whether federal, state or local, increases investment risks overall by favoring specific businesses in key industries over all others. This contributes to uncertainty which is the form of risk that complicates business decision-making most. That said, I consider myself an open-minded person and would give a full hearing to any and all opportunities presented to the Council for review.

HEBERT (8): Absolutely. No one entity can do it all on its own. We are all working towards the same goals for Lafayette and we should not inhibit a citizen who has a reasonable solution to an existing problem simply because they are not employed by the government. One small example would be Bus Stops. A group of citizens have come together as they see a need for bus stops with appropriate seating and covered shelter at each stop. They are working with the city to help gather funding, participation and resources from local and state government as well as the private sector, and university.

JUDICE (8): That is too broad a question and it can be misinterpreted. I would need to have the specific information on what is being proposed and would seek the input of community leaders on both sides of the issue.

ROSS (8): Generally speaking, these types of projects are done with public money when private sector interests can’t make the numbers work. Which usually means, the taxpayers will eventually be on the hook if (usually when) the project fails. I would want to see a clearly demonstrated public benefit before approving any such arrangement.