Lafayette Parish residents to receive tax break

Property owners in Lafayette Parish will get a break in tax bills mailed out later this year.

The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday suspended the collection of the 0.94-mill Public Health Unit property tax this year and reduced the tax that funds mosquito control programs from 1.5 mills to 0.5 mills.

Both property taxes bring in far more revenue than is needed to support the respective programs, and the savings from prior years have grown to a total of about $13.4 million.

That built-up savings will allow city-parish government to continue funding the health unit and the mosquito control program over the next year even with the tax cut.

City-Parish Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups said the taxes are expected to be restored to the old levels in 2014.

“Basically, we can give them a break for a year,” she said.

The move will mean a total savings for taxpayers parishwide of more than $3 million, but the impact on individual residents will be more modest.

The owner of a home valued at $200,000 will pay $24.25 less in property taxes, and the owner of a $100,000 home will pay $4.85 less, according to figures from city-parish government.

The savings could be more substantial for business owners because they do not get the homestead exemption tax break that residential owners receive and must also pay property taxes on some types of inventory.

The health unit tax helps fund the state-run clinic at the Clifton Chenier Center on Willow Street.

The tax has been bringing in about $1 million more than needed each year, resulting in a savings account that is estimated to reach $8.2 million by the end of this year.

The tax used to fund mosquito spraying and other control efforts in the parish also brings in annual revenue that is about $1 million more than needed, and the built-up savings for that program is expected to hit about $7.3 million at year’s end.

The built-up savings from the two taxes cannot be shifted to fill gaps in other areas of the budget because the taxes are legally restricted and can be used only to fund the health unit and mosquito control.

City-Parish President Joey Durel had said earlier this year that he would like to explore asking voters to approve combining the two taxes, still using the money for the health unit and mosquito control but also allowing it be used to fund the parish’s animal control program.

There is no proposal at this time for that change.

In other business Tuesday, the council discussed a proposal to transfer city-parish government’s lease of Foster Park to Youngsville.

City-parish government is in a long-term lease agreement with the private company that owns the land for the park, which is in the city limits of Youngsville.

The plan calls for a portion of the park to be donated to the Lafayette Parish School System for an expansion of Green T. Lindon Elementary School and for the remainder of the park to be handed over to Youngsville.

City-Parish Attorney Michael Hebert said the agreement requires that the portion not used by the school will remain a public park.

A final vote on that agreement is scheduled for Oct. 1.