LAFAYETTE — New taxes will likely be among the recommendations from a citizens’ committee that has been studying city-parish finances this year.
The Future Needs/Funding Sources Committee met Monday to begin discussing its final report after months of hearing from city-parish department heads, staff and council members.
No consensus emerged on the details of a proposal, but the talk of how to deal with city-parish financial woes focused less on cuts and more on the need for boosting revenue for roads, bridges, recreation and other areas of the budget where funding has been tight for years.
Committee members were keenly aware any proposal for new or increased taxes might face stiff opposition.
“Number one is getting the community to trust again, because we have urgent needs for infrastructure,” said committee member Chad Hanks.
The City-Parish Council formed the Future Needs/Funding Sources Committee in February, and the five-member group is expected to make its recommendations to the council early next year.
The committee identified roads, bridges, drainage and recreation as urgent needs, and members held out little hope of major projects in those areas without additional revenue.
The committee tossed around the possibility of special taxing districts for drainage in different areas of the parish and proposals for new sales taxes that would be limited to a few years of collections and dedicated to specific projects.
“I don’t think they (voters) are just going to throw money at the government. I think they are going to want something they can visibly see,” Hanks said.
Committee member Sarah Walker cautioned that legally restricting too much tax revenue for specific projects could tie the hands of government and leave little wiggle room for managing the budget.
“The flip-side is that you can dedicate yourself too tightly,” she said.
Committee member Scott Hayes agreed but said voters want assurances the taxes they approve will be spent on projects they want.
“I think that dedicated funds is a Band-Aid for public trust,” Hayes said.
Most of the committee members seemed to agree on one issue: a parishwide property tax is needed to support parks and recreation.
The current parks and recreation property tax is paid only by residents in the city of Lafayette, and money is pulled from other areas of the city-parish budget to operate and maintain parks outside the city limits.
“We all know it’s extremely unfair that only the residents of Lafayette are being taxed for recreation,” said committee member Jerry Prejean.
The committee’s discussion Monday was colored by the elections on Saturday when Lafayette Parish voters approved a 1-cent sales tax to be levied over eight months next year to pay for improvements at the Lafayette Regional Airport.