A City Council member Thursday offered a budget amendment that would ensure four recreation centers in north Lafayette remain open in 2020-21, while others offered amendments to restore money for employees at the Heymann Performing Arts Center and Lafayette Science Museum.

Objections by others on the city and parish councils mean votes will be taken on each individually when the budget is adopted in September.

The move also may set up a constitutional and legal showdown over whether the Parish Council should have a vote equal to that of City Council over services and operations funded entirely by city taxpayers.

The City Council and Parish Council met jointly Thursday to review portions of the budget, including parks and recreation and community development, with proposed cuts by Mayor-President Josh Guillory for the fiscal year that runs from Nov. 1  through Oct. 31, 2021.

City Councilman Glenn Lazard offered a general amendment to the proposed budget to restore $3.5 million to parks and recreation from the city general operating fund to keep open four parks in predominantly Black, economically challenged neighborhoods and to keep 37 employees Guillory proposed laying off.

In July, Guillory announced he was shutting down the centers and laying off 37 employees effective Aug. 14. He did not consult with city or parish council members before the announcement, which sparked outcry and protests in the community. 

Since then, Guillory, some of his administrators and some council members have walked back the announcement, alleging it was never his intention to shut the recreation centers down, even though the money was cut from the proposed budget. Guillory instead is pushing for public/private partnerships to keep the recreation centers open.

Guillory last week requested proposals from businesses and organizations to operate the four centers. Next week, the Parish Council is expected to consider allocating $200,000 to the recreation centers for one year from $2 million voters rededicated to parks and recreation in 2018 from a libraries surplus.

Lazard wasn't buying it, so he offered the amendment.

"I guess this is my definition of a safety net," Lazard said, offering the amendment to restore funding.

City Councilman Andy Naquin objected. As a result, the councils will vote separately on the allocation when the budget is up for final adoption Sept. 10.

Councilwoman Nanette Cook offered an amendment allocating $100,000 from the city general fund to the Heymann Performing Arts Center to fund positions eliminated by Guillory in June, among the 101 full- and part-time positions he cut. Parish Councilman Josh Carlson objected, forcing a separate vote in September.

The positions include box office workers and a maintenance person to prepare the facility for the return of events after the COVID-19 closures.

City Council plan to separate city, parish recreation funds may violate charter

Ctiy Councilwoman Liz Hebert, who chairs the budget hearings, said since the Heymann Center is 100% funded by city taxpayers, Carlson has no standing to object to the transfer.

Citizens push back against proposed budget cuts to Lafayette Science Museum

Guillory interjected that Assistant City-Parish Attorney Paul Escott previously said departments and services considered parishwide are to be voted on by both the city and parish councils. Later in the meeting, Carlson said he heard from the city-parish attorney that the Heymann Center is in the community development department which is a parish department therefore his objection stands.

Cook also offered an amendment to transfer the $890,000 balance in the CREATE fund to the Lafayette Science Museum.

Council Clerk Veronica Williams said 152 people registered their support for funding the science museum.

Guillory's proposed budget guts the museum staff and operations. Talks are under way for the science museum foundation to take over operations of the museum, but it could take years for the foundation to secure the $800,000 budget cut to bring the museum up to today's level. The councils will vote on the amendment separately.

Carlson requested a legal opinion on whether the City Council has any say over transferring the CREATE money since CREATE is a parish tax. He said he believes only the Parish Council can vote to transfer the money.

Cook offered a general budget amendment to use $100,000 from the city general fund to restore funds cut by Guillory for the Acadiana Center for the Arts. Naquin opposed the amendment, so the amendment will be voted on separately.

Email Claire Taylor at ctaylor@theadvocate.com.