Scott leaders will have to get creative to provide the city's residents with fire and police protection and other public services after voters on Saturday narrowly rejected a proposed 1 percent sales tax.
The proposal was met with 44.92 percent — 296 votes — for the tax and 55.08 percent — 363 votes — against, according to complete but unofficial election results.
"I didn't expect it to pass," said Scott Mayor Jan-Scott Richard. "We're in an anti-tax climate, and you've got to let the people decide. They voiced their opinions, and we're going to have to live within our means and work with what we have."
Voter turnout was 12.1 percent.
No one turned up to vote Saturday in five precincts.
"It's just disappointing," said Scott Fire Chief Chad Sonnier. "I feel like the administration and the police chief and myself did a phenomenal job in educating the voters on the importance of it through town halls and through civic organization meetings throughout the city, but people didn't even have an interest in learning how the money was going to be used."
Turnout was "very low" at the three town halls held in the days and weeks leading up to the election, Sonnier said.
Just how low?
"We had single digits at all of them," he said softly.
There are 8,768 people who live in Scott, according to the 2017 U.S. Census population estimate, and 5,467 of them are registered to vote, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State's website.
Saturday's tax proposal was one of a handful of ballot items around the state and the only vote taking place in Lafayette Parish.
The sales tax was expected to generate $2.4 million a year and would have been collected only in the city of Scott, according to the ballot proposition. Two-thirds of the money generated by the tax would have been dedicated to fire and police protection while the remaining one-third would have be used for parks and recreation, sewer, roads, drainage and economic development.
The mayor doesn't foresee "major cuts" to services as a result of the failed tax.
"We may have to scale back here and there, but we'll continue to prioritize services," Richard said. "We'll do what we need to do to maintain a good quality of life and do what it takes to make sure fire and police have what they need to protect our residents."
There is currently no money dedicated for fire protection in Scott.
The city uses a volunteer fire department but has the second highest volume of calls in the parish after Lafayette, according to Sonnier.
Revenue from the proposed sales tax would have been used to build two new fire stations and purchase two fire engines and a ladder truck — all of which were recommended in 2016 by the National Fire Protection Association and Property Insurance Association of Louisiana, Sonnier said. The Scott Fire Department has until 2021 to act on those recommendations or the city's fire rating will take a hit which would likely increase premiums people pay for homeowners insurance.
That's what happened after voters in the unincorporated parts of Lafayette Parish voted down December's 10-mill property tax for fire protection.
"Our guys volunteer their time, not their lives," Sonnier said. "This is why it's so important to have the equipment we need to do our jobs. We can't obtain the equipment we need through barbecues and skeet shoots and golf tournaments anymore. That's not going to cut it. We need earmarked funding."
The mayor has "no intentions" of bringing the tax proposal before voters again.
"I think we're just going to have to be creative from here on out on how to attract more businesses," Richard said. "I think if you get more people in and get more businesses in and your sales tax base goes up, you can provide services that way. I think that's where we're going to need to focus our energy to see an increase in the sales tax revenue."