Walter Pierce

Council finalizes budget; NGOs, Cajundome safe

by Walter Pierce

The Lafayette Consolidated Council Tuesday finalized a budget that, after a final number crunch by the administration to account for amendments, will likely be several hundred thousand dollars in the red, forcing a sweep of the veto pen by City-Parish President Joey Durel. The city-parish president’s proposed budget submitted in the summer was roughly $587 million.

Durel scored a significant win in the vote on an amendment by District 3 Councilman Brandon Shelvin to remove the earmark from $400,000 the administration wants to set aside for a comprehensive master plan for the parish. By a surprising 5-4 vote — surprising because District 9 Councilman William Theriot and District 4 Councilman Kenneth  Boudreaux, defying expectations, voted to keep the funding intact — the money will be directed toward ultimately hiring a consulting firm to help the parish plan for the future.

Discussion on funding a comprehensive master plan prompted a terse exchange between Durel and Shelvin. The mayor-president, frustrated by Shelvin’s opposition to the funding request, commented, “The one thing we have that could be [considered a comprehensive plan], you’re scared of. It’s called LINC [Lafayette IN a Century],” to which Shelvin replied, “So you’re telling me what I am. Thank you for being a psychic.” A contrite Shelvin later apologized.

Non-governmental organizations like Festival International and Big Brothers/Big Sisters also enjoyed a tenuous win Tuesday night — the council voted to continue their more than $452,000 in LCG funding. The success of the non-profits was due in no small measure to a savvy parliamentary parry by Shelvin, who offered a motion to vote on the 23 groups collectively instead of individually; District 7 Councilman Don Bertrand seconded the motion, and the vote on NGO funding mirrored the 6-3 vote last summer in favor of NGO funding, with Theriot again joined by Jared Bellard (District 2) and Keith Patin (District 8) in snubbing the cultural and social-service providers. But Theriot, a fiscal conservative who has led the charge to cut off the NGOs, vowed to fight on. “I guess it’s pretty clear how this is going to turn out and that’s OK,” he said before the vote. “It’s just a battle that continues day after day. I was talking to someone the other day who said, ‘You know what, maybe you ought to save your powder.’ You know what? I’ve got plenty of powder. This may be the end of the battle but it’s not the end of the war.”

Theriot was also thwarted in his bid to reduce the annual $400,000 LCG subsidy to the Cajundome by 25 percent (the Cajundome for years received $500,000 from LCG, but the administration lowered it to $400,000 in the proposed budget based on the expectation that the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission will begin giving the 'dome $200,000 annually); the council rejected the measure resoundingly, with only Theriot voting in favor. If LCVC follows through on its funding offer, the Cajundome could receive $600,000 in annual subsidies.

Staff writer Nathan Stubbs contributed to this report.