Youngsville proposal on Saturday ballot
LAFAYETTE — Interest in a proposed hotel tax in Youngsville of up to 4 percent was apparently not high enough to bring out residents to cast early ballots for Saturday’s election.
Early voting for the tax election ran from Oct. 5 to Oct. 12, but no one showed up, Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters Charlene Menard said.
She said it is the first time in more than 20 years in Lafayette Parish that no one has arrived at the downtown registrar’s office to cast an early ballot in an election.
“I’ve been here since 1988, and it’s never happened,” she said.
She said the only early votes were 10 absentee ballots mailed in by members of the military and senior citizens — a figure that accounts for less than 1 percent of Youngsville’s 6,232 registered voters.
Youngsville Mayor Wilson Viator speculated that turnout for early voting could be low because the tax is the only measure on the ballot, and perhaps the trip from Youngsville to downtown Lafayette was a bit too far to vote on one issue.
“Maybe it wasn’t important enough to have somebody get in their car and drive to Lafayette,” he said.
One reason interest is low could be that few Youngsville residents will actually pay the tax, since it will be charged to hotel visitors.
And there is another possible issue: There are no hotels in Youngsville.
Viator said the tax measure has been proposed in anticipation that hotel developers will take a greater interest in the community after completion of a $16 million recreation complex expected to attract large regional sports tournaments.
The recreation complex, which is being built on 70 acres next to Sugar Mill Pond development, is set to open early next year, and Viator said he expects hotel developers will see an opportunity in the crowds of out-of-towners who travel to Youngsville for tournaments.
“There are definitely people talking and looking, but nobody has put their money up,” he said.
Youngsville voters in 2011 approved a 1 percent sales tax to pay for construction and operation of the recreation complex.
The proposed hotel tax would be dedicated to expenses related to the construction and operation of a community center to be built at the complex, Viator said.
He said the tax would not automatically go into effect if voters approve the measure on Saturday, but a “yes” vote would give the Youngsville City Council the authority to impose a tax up to 4 percent on stays at hotels, motels or RV parks.
He said that regardless of whether the tax passes, plans call for construction of the roughly $5 million community center to begin early next year.
The state has already approved $3.5 million for the facility, which will have indoor sports courts, office space for the park staff and a meeting room.
Viator said he plans to work though the week, meeting with community groups and others about Saturday’s tax election.
“Hopefully, we’ll get the word out,” he said.
The tax election in Youngsville is the only issue on the ballot Saturday in Lafayette Parish.