LAFAYETTE — Lafayette Parish voters decided Saturday to keep consolidated government in place.
A ballot measure that would have dismantled the 1996 merger of the once-separate governments for the city of Lafayette and Lafayette Parish failed by a vote of 26,448 to 15,307.
“It shows that the people are satisfied with the current government. We just need to tweak what we have,” said City-Parish Councilman Jay Castille, who opposed the change.
City-Parish Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux, who supported the separation, said he knew the proposal was an uphill battle. Boudreaux said he will now seek out changes under the form of consolidation to give the city of Lafayette more autonomy — a chief issue in the deconsolidation debate.
“It sends a message,” Boudreaux said of Saturday’s vote. “People want to remain consolidated, and now we have to fix it.”
The prospect of splitting government emerged last year when the City-Parish Council formed a commission to explore changes to local government.
The commission voted in April to put question on the ballot, casting aside suggestions for minor tweaks that would have kept consolidatation in place.
Supporters of the split argued the city would be better off on its own.
Opponents countered that reverting to separate governments would be costly and that a combined government is needed to move forward on regional issues.
Central to the debate was the make-up of the nine-member City-Parish Council, which replaced the former Lafayette City Council and former Lafayette Parish Council.
The combined council has led to complaints from with the city because, despite consolidation, the city has remained a separate entity, with its own taxes and distinct services.
Supporters of splitting government argued that City-Parish Council members who represent mostly rural constituencies should not have a vote on issues specific to the city, such as utility rates, the oversight of the Police and Fire departments, and what special projects the city will pursue with city tax dollars.
Castille said he would support a hybrid form of consolidation that would limit votes on city-specific issues to council members who represent city-based districts.