Lafayette City-Parish Mayor-President Joel Robideaux has put staff on notice of possible budget cuts following three consecutive months of sluggish sales tax collections for the fiscal year that began Nov. 1.
“In the event of continued weakness in sales tax revenue, I am committed to working with the council to ensure that available resources are spent on our most critical priorities. I am asking (Chief Administrative Officer Lowell Duhon) to work with staff, agency heads and key stakeholders to develop budget and operational contingencies to respond to this challenge,” Robideaux said in a statement released Thursday.
City-parish officials prepared the 2015-16 budget under the assumption sales tax revenue would be roughly the same as the prior year, but the plunging price of oil has bruised a local economy heavily dependent on the oil and gas sector.
Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups said sales tax collections for the first three months of this fiscal year are down about 5 percent compared with last year, or $538,000 less than anticipated in the budget.
In the unincorporated areas of the parish, sales tax collections — money used for rural road and drainage work — are down about 32 percent for the first three months of the fiscal year, or $307,000 less than anticipated in the budget.
The total dollar loss for rural tax collections is smaller than in the city but represents a much larger chunk of revenue for the unincorporated areas, where total sales tax collections last year were $5.8 million, compared with $82.5 million in sales tax revenue last year in the city.
“I am confident that together, the council and I will decide the best approach to any necessary adjustments and develop a fiscally responsible plan of action,” Robideaux said.