Long a proponent of city of Lafayette self-determination, Bruce Conque lays out how Lafayette Consolidated Government isn’t really consolidated at all. Conque made the following remarks at the start of the City-Parish Council’s budget hearings, which began last week. He posted them to Facebook recently.
The Parish of Lafayette is BROKE!
This is a rather lengthy piece of information. However it is important that there is basic knowledge of how and why our Parish is in financial crisis.
There is a common misconception of many in the general public about the Lafayette Consolidated Government budget: “there’s plenty of money in LCG’s budget … so why is there a Parish financial crisis?”
LCG does not have a “budget” of $620 million. We operate under the guise of consolidation and every year we approve a LCG budget that is actually a combination of budgets: Parish, City, LUS and LUS Communications.
The Parish of Lafayette has limited funding: property taxes are mostly dedicated for specific purposes and sales taxes from unincorporated Parish that are the largest contribution to the Parish general fund.
Parish property taxes are inadequate to meet the need and are subsidized by Parish general fund. Sales tax collections are down over 32%. The 2016-17 proposed budget shows $12 million in the general fund with projected decreasing revenues and increasing demands. Overall, the proposed ending fund balance for the Parish budget is $68 thousand.
Bottom line: Parish of Lafayette is BROKE.
Many of you know of my political goal to restore self government to the City of Lafayette. And I will continue to pursue that objective. However, as a citizen of Lafayette Parish, it is my more immediate concern to address our Parish financial crisis.
What can we do?
First, we can not use City dollars to cover Parish shortfalls.
We can approve the “roll forward” of existing voter approved property millages upon which the administration heavily depends in the proposed budget. And the administration also predicates the proposed budget on the revision of the allocation formula which determines how the City and Parish “share” operational expenses. And I’ll address my concerns about that “sharing” at a more appropriate time.
Our fiduciary responsibility for the future is to identify ways in which to achieve a healthier Parish budget. Certainly we can identify means by which to further reduce parish services. However, this would be a hardship for an already underserved population of some 70k in unincorporated Parish which has inadequate fire protection, critical drainage issues and deteriorating roads and bridges
We can adjust / “right size” existing property tax revenues and/or seek voter support for new taxes; either property or sales.
In conclusion, the Council and the administration must work together with the folks whom we represent to make some tough decisions regarding Parish finances.