If voters reject renewal of a second property tax that provides 40% of the funding for Lafayette Parish libraries, there will only be enough money left to operate one or two libraries in the entire parish.
Library Director Danny Gillane provided board members Monday with a candid assessment of what will likely happen if voters fail to renew a 1.84-mil property tax Oct. 9 and again on a second try at renewal in April. The scenario is bleak for a library system which, a few years ago, had a fund balance of more than $26 million.
In 2018 voters failed to renew one of three property taxes that funded the parish library system, costing it about $3.5 million a year. On top of that, the hefty savings the library system had accrued over the years was raided to fund drainage improvements after the 2016 flood and the Parish Council, at the behest of Mayor-President Josh Guillory, did not roll property millages forward, costing the system additional money.
Failure to renew the 1.85-mill tax will strip the library system of another $5 million a year, leaving it with only one parish-wide property tax to provide it with operating revenue and about $7 million left in reserve.
There won't be enough money to continue operating all the parish's libraries, Gillane said. Even using what's left in the libraries' fund balance would only keep them open just over a year, he said.
Another scenario, Gillane said, would be to keep open one or two libraries, like the two busiest, the main library downtown and South Regional Library on Johnston Street just south of Acadiana Mall. He also would have to lay off some staff and reduce the purchase of materials.
A third scenario, he said, would be to keep the main library open and two smaller regional libraries, closing all other branches.
If the property tax is not renewed in October, there is time to get it on an April ballot before it expires. Between October and April, Gillane said, he would ask the board to allow him to make changes that would reduce services and cut costs. Recent cost-cutting measures, he said, have saved about $200,000.