Airport board seeks 1 cent, 8-month tax for terminal

The Lafayette Airport Commission voted Wednesday to push forward with a plan to put a 1-cent, 8-month sales tax proposal before voters this year to raise funds for a new terminal.

The Lafayette City-Parish Council would have to OK the tax election, and the commission is expected to seek council approval by the end of April.

The sales tax would generate an estimated $35 million, commission Chairman Matt Cruse said.

The new terminal and related improvements for additional parking and to accommodate more and larger airplanes would cost an estimated $90 million, he said.

Cruse said the balance would come from state and federal funds and bonds that the airport could repay over time.

The airport tax proposal was made public last week by City-Parish President Joey Durel, who in his annual “state of the parish” speech spoke in support of putting the tax before voters.

“We’ve had a ton of feedback coming from the area, and the majority of it has been positive,” Cruse said at Wednesday’s commission meeting.

Cruse said last week the Lafayette Regional Airport’s terminal can’t keep up with passenger numbers that have steadily climbed in recent years.

The terminal, which was built in 1965 and last remodeled in 1989, is already at capacity, and passenger numbers are expected to increase by 40 percent over the next decade, he said.

The proposal as outlined by Durel called for a 1-cent sales tax to be collected for one year, but the commission on Wednesday recommended a shorter time period — 8 months — because tax revenue projections indicate that a full year of collections would not be needed to reach the revenue goal of $35 million.

Cruse said the plan would be to collect the sales tax parishwide from March 1, 2015, to Oct. 31, 2015.

The proceeds legally would be dedicated to helping pay for a new terminal, and the tax could not be extended, even if the revenue goal is not met, Cruse said.

Airport commissioners last week outlined the tax proposal at a City-Parish Council committee meeting.

The three councilmen in attendance — Kenneth Boudreaux, Jay Castille and Brandon Shelvin — received it cautiously.

Boudreaux said he liked the idea of a sales tax that was limited to a short time period, but he said it still might be a tough sell.

“We know how people view taxes in Lafayette,” he said.

Commissioner Paul Segura told council members that regardless of what becomes of the tax proposal, the airport, at some point in the near future, must find a way to build a new terminal to handle the ever-increasing number of passengers.

“We are going to have to build a new terminal, whether it’s today or whether it’s in five or ten years,” he said.