LCG budget faces votes Thursday

by Walter Pierce

New funding models for external agencies along with a proposed purchase of the horse farm could face opposition. City-Parish President Joey Durel's proposed $611 million budget for the fiscal year that begins Nov. 1 is up for final adoption Thursday evening by the City-Parish Council. The budget includes line-item appropriations for the nearly completed Acadiana Center for the Arts as well as Festival International de Louisiane; a new funding model for both arts/culture and social service external agencies; and a plan to purchase the horse farm from UL through a cooperative endeavor agreement with Community Foundation of Acadiana.

Those proposals, per tradition, are likely to face opposition for at least a couple of councilmen.

Durel's proposal that Lafayette Consolidated Government purchase the horse farm in a partial land-swap deal would give the university the 8-acre Youth Park that adjoins the campus behind the Johnston Street fire station.

The horse farm appraised for $5.7 million last year, and Youth Park in the past was worth about a half million dollars. For this proposed transaction, both properties will have to be reappraised, but local government is looking at paying about $5 million for the land over a 10-year period. The deal calls for creation of a cooperative endeavor agreement that includes a 99-year lease with CFA, which would raise the money to develop and maintain the park.

Under the new external-agency funding model, money used to fund the agencies through a competitive application process would come from franchise fees paid to LCG by Cox Communications and Lafayette Utilities System's Fiber service. Currently, those entities generate about $840,000 in franchise fees annually. Of that sum, $515,000 would be allocated to the AcA, with $160,000 earmarked for distribution by the AcA staff to other arts and culture providers in the form of grants; at least $70,000 will go to Festival International de Louisiane, and the remaining $285,000 will underwrite the AcA's operating expenses. Arts/culture providers that receive grants through the AcA will face a $17,500 cap - a $10,000 cap for operational funding and a $7,500 cap for programming.

Also under the new model, LCG's Community Development Department will appoint a 5-person panel to award funding to nonprofit social service providers, with a $25,000 cap for each agency receiving funding.

The CPC meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the council auditorium.

[Editor's Note: Prior reporting by Leslie Turk was included in this article.]