Lafayette city-parish officials have known for months a windfall of $85.5 million in federal COVID relief funds is coming to the city and parish. The administration even hired a consultant to help figure out how the money can be spent.
But apparently all City and Parish Council members weren't consulted when Mayor-President Josh Guillory was making his spending plan.
City Councilman Glenn Lazard learned Thursday when the agendas for next week's council meetings were published that Guillory is proposing an ordinance to amend the current operating and capital budgets to increase revenues and spending to accommodate the $85.5 million.
Tanya LaCoste, communications and media specialist, said Guillory requested input from City and Parish Council members on how they'd like to see the relief money spent.
"Only a few responded," she wrote Thursday evening via email. "The proposal is well-thought-out with input from stakeholders, receipt of requests from council members, input from departmental directors and staff, along with the chief financial officer, chief administrative officer, and the mayor-president himself."
The $85.5 million is part of the U.S. Treasury Department's Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The money is to be used to help local governments recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
The city of Lafayette will receive $38.25 million and the parish will receive $47.46 million, Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups said.
Lazard on Thursday said Guillory's administration has not asked his opinion on how to spend the COVID relief money nor has he seen the administration's list of proposed projects or uses.
Lafayette Consolidated Government received the first half of the money, Jamie Angelle, chief communications officer, said last week.
When the agendas for the July 20 council meetings were published Thursday they included a special joint meeting of the City and Parish Councils with separate ordinances to introduce Guillory's proposed 2021-22 budget and to amend the current fiscal year's operating and capital budget by increasing revenues and expenditures in the amount of $85.7 million in recovery relief.
A week ago, in a July 7 email, Angelle said, "We are still working on the list of projects that it could possibly be used for. We hope to have that list available the same night as budget introduction so that it can be included in the FY 2021-2022 budget."
Neither ordinance as published Thursday contains details about spending the $85.7 million. A memo by Toups states the budget for spending the relief funds will be presented at Tuesday's meeting.
Lazard said as of Thursday afternoon he had not seen Guillory's proposed list of projects or spending.
"We got a generic ordinance giving him the authority to do A, B, C and D," he said. "Until I see the list, I'm in the dark."
Lazard said he will have questions for the administration Tuesday. To become final, the ordinance must be approved for introduction by both councils and, two weeks later, approved for final adoption by both councils. If introduced Tuesday, it could return to the councils for a final vote Aug. 3.
Lazard and City Councilman Pat Lewis announced Wednesday a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. July 21 in the auditorium of Building C at the Clifton Chenier Center, 220 W. Willow St., Lafayette. Only two council members are hosting the event, he said, to avoid a quorum which would violate the state's open meetings law.
Thursday morning, Lazard said those attending the town hall will learn what the federal relief money can be used for and may offer ideas on how they would like to see the money spent. Lazard said he will take residents' suggestions to the administration.
"This is a golden opportunity for us to make a difference in addressing some crucial issues in our community," Lazard said.
There are serious infrastructure needs in the northern part of the city, Lazard said, as well as in the downtown area. His district also can use money for economic development projects, he said.
The federal relief, according to a May 10 fact sheet by the Treasury Department, is "to support the immediate pandemic response, bring back jobs, and lay the groundwork for a strong and equitable recovery."
The money may be used to support public health efforts, address negative economic impacts; replace government funds lost due to the pandemic; provide "premium pay" to essential workers; and invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
Guillory will present his proposed 2021-2022 budget, for the year beginning Nov. 1, at a joint City and Parish Council meeting at 5:15 p.m. July 20.