City-Parish Council seeks public input
LAFAYETTE — The City-Parish Council wants a group of residents to dig into the finances of local government and offer insight on how to keep up with rising expenses for public safety, roads, recreation and a long list of other needs in Lafayette.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Chairman Kevin Naquin announced the formation of what’s being called a “Future Needs/Funding Sources Committee.”
Naquin said the plan it to give a group of residents an insider’s view of the city-parish budget and how each department operates and then have them make recommendations on such issues as how to beef up the police and fire departments, pay for needed road and drainage projects, and better fund parks and recreation.
“We want to have the citizens looking at everything we look at and saying what they think,” Naquin said. “We are going to give them the opportunity to see each department and how it operates.”
Naquin said there are no preconceived ideas on what might emerge and there was no mention Tuesday of any possible tax hikes or budget cuts.
The committee would be made up of five community members and three council members — Naquin, Jay Castille and Don Bertrand. The council members would serve only in an advisory role and would not vote on any recommendations, Naquin said.
He said the hope is that the committee will meet over the course of about eight months and make recommendations by the end of the year.
The council has not named the committee members or laid out a specific meeting schedule. The meetings would be open to the public.
The proposal comes about a year after City-Parish President Joey Durel announced plans for similar citizen’s group at his annual “State of the Parish” speech in February of last year — a group that never materialized.
Durel had said he wanted to pull together a “blue ribbon” committee to research Lafayette’s financial needs.
But Durel said in June that he scrapped his planned committee because it would likely take too long to explain the complexities of a large government budget to the general public and because a strong anti-tax contingent in Lafayette would have actively opposed any tax proposal the group might have recommended.
“We have not been able to get our arms around it. ... I just got the sense that everyone felt like it would be a futile effort,” Durel said at the time.
Naquin said Tuesday that the new committee has grown out of continued interest in the issue from council members.
He said one topic the committee will avoid is the actual structure of government and the group will not wade into the ongoing debate of whether city-parish government should return to the separate city and parish governments that existed before a merger of the two in 1996.