Anti-tax sentiment swamps Lafayette school board sales tax, parish millage renewals Voters soundly rejected a proposed parishwide sales tax for school construction while narrowly defeating two property tax renewals for the courthouse and jail facilities.

by Mike Stagg

Lafayette Parish voters shot down a proposed half-cent sales tax for school construction on Saturday and narrowly defeated two property tax renewals related to the parish courthouse and jail facilities.

Saturday's sales tax defeat has shattered hopes for the replacement of temporary classroom buildings throughout the parish, a plan put forth by the Lafayette Parish School Board members and Superintendent Don Aguillard (top, second from right).
Image courtesy LPSS

(Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correctly report the vote totals on the school board sales tax issue. The percentage split on the issue was correct – it failed 59-41. The vote totals originally posted had been taken from one of the millage votes. We apologize for the error.)

Lafayette Parish voters rejected all three tax measures on the ballot on Saturday, defeating a proposed half-cent sales tax for the public school system as well as rejecting two property tax renewals to support the operation of the parish courthouse and corrections facilities.

Voters in the city of Lafayette, on the other hand, voted to approve renewal of a millage used to maintain city buildings.

Complete but unofficial returns show that the Lafayette Parish Public School System half-cent sales tax proposal failed by a 59-41 margin. There were 10,540 votes case in favor of the tax while 15,414 voted to reject it. A total of 25,954 voters cast ballots on the issue, a turnout of 17 percent.

The tax would have provided financing to replace hundreds of portable buildings that dot public school campuses with permanent classrooms. The proposal had the backing of many community leaders including the business group One Acadiana. Still it was not enough to overcome suspicions intensified by none other than Attorney General Jeff Landry that the tax was not, in fact, dedicated. The suspicion fanned by longtime conservative opponents of the public school system gained traction in the last week of the campaign when Landry interjected himself into the issue, first with a letter to school board members, then through appearances on conservative talk station KPEL.

It marks the second consecutive defeat for public school construction projects by Lafayette voters. In 2011, voters rejected an ambitious $561 million property tax proposal for new school construction. The plan under consideration on Saturday was more modest. It targeted replacement of 248 temporary classrooms on 12 school campuses. The total price tag was under $200 million. The tax would have been on the books for 10 years had it been approved.

Voters narrowly rejected renewal of a 2.06-mill property tax that has been used to repair and maintain the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center, which was built in 1985. The millage is the sole source of funding for maintenance of the facility located in Downtown Lafayette across the street from the Lafayette Parish Courthouse.

The vote on the correctional facility millage renewal showed that it failed by a margin of less than 700 votes. There were 12,489 votes cast in support of the renewal; 13,120 cast against it.

The proposed renewal of the 2.46-mill property tax to support the operation and maintenance of the parish courthouse also failed by a narrow margin. A total of 12,597 votes were cast in favor of the renewal while 13,111 were cast against it.

The number of votes cast on each of the parish wide tax issues exceeded the number of votes cast in the parish on the Third Circuit Court of Appeal race.

The only tax issue to win approval from voters on Saturday was the renewal of a city of Lafayette-only property tax, the proceeds of which are used to maintain city buildings. The 1.13-mill tax was renewed by a 54-46 margin. There were 8,493 votes cast in support of the renewal while 7,182 votes were cast against it. Turnout on the city tax renewal was the highest for any race on the ballot at 19.2 percent.

The city tax supports the operation and maintenance of city-owned buildings, including City Hall, the old City Hall and the former Veterans Affairs complex at Pinhook and Jefferson.