The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday is set to vote on a resolution to restrict tax propositions to general election dates and to decide on a budget cut that could land city-parish government in court.
Councilman William Theriot is proposing a new city-parish policy to restrict tax elections and any other revenue-raising ballot measures to dates set for general elections in the fall, when there is a better chance of the propositions sharing the ballot with elections for political office that usually attract higher turnout.
Theriot’s proposal comes after less than 3 percent of registered voters in Lafayette Parish turned out for an April election in which the only thing on the ballot was a tax renewal for the Bayou Vermilion District, which oversees Vermilionville and Vermilion River cleanup projects.
Voters approved the tax renewals, but Theriot said he doubts most residents were aware a tax was on the ballot.
“I received several calls from people across the parish,” he said. “There were many people who were regular voters who did not realize there was an election coming up.”
There have long been complaints about the timing of tax elections for election dates known to have low voter turnout, and Theriot said holding elections on such dates is counterproductive to increasing public participation in government.
In other business, the council is scheduled to vote on a $650,000 budget cut for the District Attorney’s Office.
Fifteenth Judicial District Attorney Keith Stutes has filed a lawsuit to keep the funding in place, and a court hearing on the issue is set for next week where Stutes could argue to block the budget cut even if the council approves it.
The council is scheduled to meet in a closed-door executive session Tuesday to discuss the litigation, which comes in an ongoing feud between Stutes and city-parish leaders over what expenses local government is required to pay for the District Attorney’s Office.
Some City-Parish Council members say there is not enough money to continue to pay the bills, but Stutes argues state law requires city-parish government to cover all reasonable expenses.