Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux pleaded with residents on Monday to support three measures on the Nov. 18 ballot he says are critical to local government.
The first two are property tax renewals for the courthouse and jail that bring in about $10 million a year. Voters in April already rejected 10-year renewals for those taxes, and doing so again would force the city-parish to drain most of the general fund for those facilities starting in the 2019 fiscal year. The parish general fund is projected to be $12.9 million that year.
The parish general fund presently covers the district attorney’s office, some public works operations, the coroner’s office and other parish-wide expenses.
“There are going to be big cuts across the board (if the renewals fail again),” Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux said at a meeting at the Lafayette Public Library hosted by District 3 Councilman Patrick Lewis. “It’s going to be devastating.”
The third ballot measure Robideaux is pushing would rededicate part of the combined public health property tax, which pays for animal control, mosquito abatement and a health clinic. That tax generates about $8 million a year and yields surpluses, Robideaux said, and he wants to shift $3 million to drainage and a cultural economy property tax Robideaux calls “CREATE.”
Most of the rededicated revenue, $2.5 million, would be added to the existing drainage maintenance tax, which typically brings in a little more than $7 million a year. Robideaux also wants to transfer $9 million from the fund balance of the combined public health tax to drainage maintenance. That would mean $11.5 million in new one-time and recurring money for drainage next year.
Robideaux’s proposal for a cultural economy tax, which would take the remaining $500,000 of the rededicated annual revenue, is less specific. He said Monday he wants to use it for an international branding campaign to entice new residents, parks and recreation and a grant matching program for nonprofits that produce cultural events. But any use of it would be subject to City-Parish Council desires, as well as the public at large, he said.
Robideaux pitched the cultural economy tax as a way to help rejuvenate the depressed Lafayette-area economy, which is heavily reliant on oil prices. Robideaux blamed the three-year-old oil crash for wiping out about 25 percent of the parish's general fund.
“I think I was elected to try to figure out what can I do to stabilize the budget. What can we do differently than what we’ve been doing for a long time?” Robideaux said. “One of those things is to diversify the economy.”