The 1-cent sales tax dedicated to help fund construction of a new passenger terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport ended Monday night after eight months, a temporary tax that was palatable to voters and could become a model to fund future projects, officials said.
To mark the end of the tax’s statutory life, Lafayette Airport Commission members and others threw a party at the airport with cake and a giant ceremonial check for “approximately $30,000,000.”
“Where is the national media when you … celebrate the end of a tax?” state Sen. Page Cortez said.
Lafayette Parish in December 2014 voted by a wide margin — 59 percent to 41 percent — to levy a 1-cent sales tax for the defined period of April 1 to Nov. 30, with the proceeds dedicated to helping finance a new $90 million passenger terminal. The tax was expected to bring in around $35 million, but its active life came during a decline in the oil and gas sector, which has brought down total tax revenues in the parish. Total collections will not be known until January.
The proceeds will be blended with federal grants, money from state government and airport cash and debt to reach $90 million.
Airport Executive Director Steven Picou said construction of a bigger terminal, an expanded parking lot and other upgrades could be completed by 2021. He said the terminal is part of $150 million in future projects at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Before the December 2014 vote, the seven members of the Airport Commission and other new terminal backers crisscrossed Lafayette Parish to sell the tax to voters.
Commission Chairman Paul Guilbeau said Monday there were too many people and too many organizations to recognize for the tax’s passage. “If I thanked them all, we’d be here until supper,” he said.
Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel said the temporary tax could serve as a template for infrastructure funding in the future.
Durel said that a 2006 1-cent tax proposition for infrastructure was soundly defeated by an electorate weary of a tax with no sunset date and no dedicated project.
“We got spanked pretty good,” Durel said, remembering the vote that, according to state election results, was defeated 64 percent to 36 percent. “People said ‘We don’t want to pay a tax forever.’ ”
Durel also said that the commission communicated to other government agencies its desire for a tax call, which kept other tax measures off the ballot last year.
Last week, the Airport Commission made active a new website — newlftterminal.com —dedicated to helping companies that might want to carry out some of the $150 million in planned airport projects, of which the terminal is the centerpiece. The website coincided with the commission’s request for qualifications from architectural and engineering firms.
The commission said in a news release that it was seeking a design “multidisciplinary team experienced with a variety of projects in a complex airport operations environment. The successful firm will be required to demonstrate the ability and resources necessary to perform the scope of services requested.”
To evaluate a firms’ qualifications, the commission appointed a five-person team composed of commission members Guilbeau and Paul Segura, Director Picou, airport manager Anthony Hebert and former state Department of Transportation and Development Director Kam Movassaghi, who is now with Lafayette-based Engineering and Management Consulting.