City, School Board to meet to discuss taxes

Talk of new tax proposals is on the agenda for a joint meeting of the Lafayette City-Parish Council and the School Board planned for next week.

Officials with the school system and city-parish government have had general discussions this year about new taxes, but no specific proposals have emerged.

Council Chairman Brandon Shelvin said one goal of the joint meeting on Tuesday is for the board and council to discuss what type of tax each of the groups might be considering and when that tax might be brought to voters.

“We want to make sure both bodies are on the same page,” Shelvin said.

He said the hope is to not have competing tax proposals on the same ballot, asking “people to decide between roads and drainage and education.”

School Board President Shelton Cobb said perhaps the board can work with the council to develop an overall tax strategy that wins over voters.

“I think it’s going to be a hard fight, but at least we have to talk about the possibility,” Cobb said.

He said there is a need to work together because the fates of Lafayette Parish and its school system are connected.

“If you have a good education system, people will choose to come. If you have a bad system, it’s another strike against you,” Cobb said.

The City-Parish Council has considered two separate tax proposals within the past year but ultimately chose not to pursue them.

The first was a new half-cent sales tax for public safety and the other was an increase in the property tax that funds parks and recreation.

The council initially set an April election for the parks and recreation tax proposal but then changed course and canceled the election, with some council members calling for a larger tax package that would address financial needs across all departments.

City-Parish President Joey Durel announced in February that he was forming a “blue ribbon” committee to look at city-parish government’s financial needs — an effort that could be the first step in crafting a broader tax proposal.

Durel said Monday he has begun meeting with possible committee members but has yet to make any appointments.

The School Board is further along in the process.

School Superintendent Pat Cooper in January proposed a 10-year, 15-mill property tax for an educational turnaround plan and a one-cent sales tax that could be collected for a maximum of six years to pay for facility improvements.

A citizen’s committee began meeting earlier this year to research school system needs and to vet Cooper’s proposed tax package.

The joint City-Parish Council and School Board meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Monday at the main city-parish government offices on University Avenue.

Other issues up for discussion include the school resource officer program and the possibility of more partnerships between city-parish government and the school system such as shared use of libraries and recreation centers.