Lafayette Parish voters on Saturday approved a measure to allow some of the tax money now collected for public health and mosquito control to also be used for the animal shelter and animal control services.
With all precincts reporting, 2,978 voters, or 64 percent, supported the measure, while 1,676, or 36 percent, opposed it. The measure passed in a low turnout election with only 3.2 percent of registered voters in Lafayette Parish going to the polls, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office.
Passage of the proposal does not raise taxes but rather loosens the legal restrictions on how existing tax revenue can be spent.
The Lafayette animal shelter and related animal control operations cost city-parish government more than $1 million a year, but there is no dedicated tax to support animal control.
At the same time, existing property taxes for mosquito control and the public health unit generate millions of dollars more than needed, and the money sits in a savings account because the property tax revenue is legally dedicated to those services and cannot be used for anything else.
The proposed 10-year, 3.56-mill combined tax would bring in about $6.7 million a year, enough to fund existing expenses for mosquito control programs, the parish health unit and animal control, and still have about $2.3 million a year left over, according to figures from city-parish government.
The additional money could be used to enhance any of the three services.
Using dedicated funding from the 3.56-mill tax for animal control also will free up about $1.2 million a year that has been coming from other areas of the city-parish budget to pay for animal control services.
That money can now be used to cover other expenses.
The accumulated savings built up in the mosquito control and public health accounts had grown to about $11 million by the end of the 2014 budget year, according to figures from city-parish government.
City-Parish President Joey Durel said in an interview before the election that some of that money possibly could be used for a new animal shelter.
The City-Parish Council was split on the measure, voting 5-4 last year to put the tax proposal on the ballot.
Councilmen Kevin Naquin, Jay Castille, Brandon Shelvin, Don Bertrand and Keith Patin voted to bring the issue to voters.
Voting against the measure were Councilmen Kenneth Boudreaux, Jared Bellard, Andy Naquin and William Theriot.
Theriot said in an interview before the election that he felt residents would rather have a lower tax bill if the existing millages are bringing in more money than needed.
“If we had all that extra money, we should give it back to the people,” he said.
Theriot said he might have considered supporting a rededication of the existing taxes if the money had gone to drainage projects.
Voters on Saturday also approved the renewal of a parishwide 10-year, 4.17-mill property for road and bridge work.
With all precincts reporting, 3,471 voters said “yes” to the renewal, and 1,195 voters opposed it. The tax generates about $7.8 million in annual revenue.