Meeting called to discuss taxes in Lafayette Parish

City-Parish Council Chairman Brandon Shelvin has called a Monday meeting for a wide-ranging discussion of taxes in Lafayette Parish, a first step in what could evolve into a new tax proposal for city-parish government.

The Lafayette Parish School Board, Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, the five smaller municipalities in the parish and several other local government entities that are supported by tax revenue have been invited to attend the meeting.

It is set for 2 p.m. Monday in the council auditorium at the main city-parish government offices on University Avenue and is open to the public.

Shelvin said the goal is for everyone to discuss their financial needs and any planned tax proposals in the near future.

The meeting comes as some city-parish officials have been talking about the possibility of a new tax proposal for city-parish government.

“We want to make sure we are all on the same page and not stepping on anyone’s toes,” Shelvin said.

One potential issue of discussion could be a new tax plan from Lafayette Parish School Superintendent Pat Cooper.

Cooper has proposed a 10-year, 15-mill property tax for the educational turnaround plan and a temporary one-cent sales tax for up to six years dedicated to facility improvements.

Cooper has said the plan is a rough draft, and the School Board has formed a committee of community members to vet Cooper’s proposal and develop a recommendation.

City-parish leaders have not laid out any specific tax plan, but City-Parish President Joey Durel last week called for the creation of a “blue ribbon” committee to assess the financial needs of local government.

Shelvin said he hopes a tax proposal could emerge that not only addresses short-term needs but will keep city-parish government “vital” for years to come by setting up a tax structure that keeps pace with rising expenses.

“I want to make sure that we are not putting a Band-Aid on a large wound,” he said.

Shelvin said he would like to see a comprehensive tax plan this year but does not want to rush the issue if more time is needed to develop the proposal.

The talk of new taxes comes after city-parish government made some sharp cuts in this year’s budget, including a decision to strip 78 vacant jobs from the budget rather than fill the positions.

The City-Parish Council has considered two tax proposals over the past 12 months to fill budget holes but opted not to move forward on either one.

The first, floated about a year ago, was for a half-cent public safety sales tax that would have replaced two existing property taxes for the fire and police departments, generating an estimated $10 million more a year in revenue.

The second was an increase in the parks and recreation property tax that was scheduled to go before voters in April.

The council changed course last month and voted to take the tax measure off the ballot.

Several council members cited the need to develop a comprehensive tax package rather than trying to tackle financial problems department by department.