LAFAYETTE — City-Parish President Joey Durel says he wants to let voters decide whether they want to create a single public health tax for Lafayette to pay for mosquito control, public health services and animal control.
He presented figures at Tuesday’s City-Parish Council meeting that show the amount of revenue from two existing property tax millages — for mosquito control and the parish’s public health unit — are sufficient to pay for both those services and also animal control.
Durel said if the public rejects his proposal to consolidate the existing tax millages and add animal control, he will come back to the council and ask members to cut the two existing tax millages so they don’t generate excess revenue beyond what is needed for mosquito control and the public health unit.
“If this goes to the people and they vote it down, I will be bringing an ordinance to (the council) to reduce the tax,” Durel said.
The two existing millages bring in about $6.7 million each year, of which only about $2.9 million is spent. Durel wants the council to let voters decide in 2015 whether to use the excess tax dollars to create a dedicated funding source for animal control — a department that costs the general fund about $1.3 million annually.
Durel said the consolidation would free up those general fund dollars for road and drainage projects where it’s “desperately needed.”
About $300,000 would go into the parish fund, which would almost double the $320,000 budgeted this fiscal year for road projects in unincorporated areas of the parish, Durel said. The other $1 million would be available for projects within the city limits.
The combined health millage could also dedicate dollars to build a new animal shelter in the future, although Durel said that project is not associated with the current proposal.
“An improved, 21st-century animal shelter will have to be addressed whether or not this passes,” Durel said.
But the council raised concern as to whether animal control is the right place for those excess dollars.
“There are things that we could probably do with this money that aren’t in the budget,” said District 7 councilman Don Bertrand, who said Lafayette Parish Health Unit employees want more staffing but are restricted by budget considerations.
The clinic on West Willow Street provides a variety of family health services for low-income parish residents, including immunizations, nutrition counseling, and women and infant wellness programs.
“Drainage should be a number one priority,” said District 5 councilman Jared Bellard, who suggested replacing animal control with drainage or roads in the proposal, arguing that both can be considered public health issues.
Council Chairman Kevin Naquin asked Durel to make the presentation to the city’s Future Needs Funding Sources Committee before he brings another ordinance to the council calling for an election.
A resolution to put the proposal before voters on the Dec. 6 ballot died in September when a motion by Councilman Jay Castille to discuss the issue was not backed by any other council members.