Council to consider slew of tax hikes, rate increases tonight

by Walter Pierce

The City-Parish Council tonight begins what promises to be an excruciating task: examining nearly two dozen property taxes paid within the city of Lafayette by property owners across the parish and deciding whether to roll them forward, i.e., increase them to the maximum amount already approved by voters.

LCG published notice last month on a number of potential property tax hikes.

Those property taxes, some of which are paid by all property owners in the parish and some paid only by residents living within the corporate limits of Lafayette, including funding streams for the public library system, the airport commission, Lafayette Economic Development Authority, the parish general fund, parks and recreation, city-owned buildings, city streets, parish drainage, police salaries and more.

LCG put out notice — as it’s legally required to do — in July alerting residents of the possible tax increases. It’s unlikely that every proposed roll-forward will be approved, but it’s little secret that Lafayette Consolidated Government, and especially the parish side of the budget, is financially strained as

Mayor Joel Robideaux has warned of painful cuts to services on the parish side, a reality reiterated recently by District 6 Councilman Bruce Conque at the outset of budget hearings and again on social media:

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 $68,000.

Bottom line: Parish of Lafayette is BROKE.

The council will also consider a rate hike for customers of Lafayette Utilities System, the city-owned municipal service. The 9 percent hike proposed by LUS Director Terry Huval would be spread over three years beginning with a 3 percent hike effective Nov. 1.

As this newspaper opined recently, these potential hikes are a necessary reaction to depressed oil prices going into a third year. Is this our new normal? Read more about that here.

Those millage ordinances that are approved Tuesday will be up for final adoption Aug. 23.

To see the council’s full agenda, which contains links to each millage ordinance, click here.