Lafayette parks need more money to maintain services

City-Parish Parks and Recreation Director Gerald Boudreaux laid out dim prospects Monday for the future of his department without an increased recreation tax or other new revenue sources.

Boudreaux spoke to the city-parish Future Needs/Funding Sources Committee, a citizens advisory group the City-Parish Council formed last month to review financial challenges facing local government.

Chief among those challenges in recent years has been the Parks and Recreation Department, which is supported by a 1.92-mill property tax that brings in about $2.5 million a year toward a $12.5 million annual parks and recreation budget.

Recreation fees contribute a few million dollars to the revenue stream, but the department depends on subsidies of about $5 million each year from other areas of the city-parish budget.

Boudreaux said those subsidies seem to be more threatened each year because of public safety and other needs that city-parish government has to fund.

“How are we going to continue to grow this department, because this community is growing?” Boudreaux said. “The upkeep and maintenance of the facilities cannot continue to come from the subsidy.”

The Parks and Recreation Department manages 35 parks, 10 recreation centers and three golf courses in the parish and oversees a wide variety of programming.

Boudreaux said he feels his department has done an admirable job of working within a tight budget, but he said there is not enough money to keep pace with the demand for recreation facilities and programs in the parish.

“We would love to grow the department, but the last 10 years have been survival,” Boudreaux said.

City-parish leaders have for several years talked of the need to address the finances of the Parks and Recreation Department.

“I think the department is probably one of the most important departments in this government. This department touches the kids,” said Councilman Jay Castille.

City-Parish President Joey Durel formed a commission in 2008 to explore funding options, but the group met only a handful of times and never made any recommendations.

In November 2012, the City-Parish Council voted to put a parks and recreation tax increase on the ballot that would have raised the property tax from 1.92 mills to 7 mills.

But a few months later, the council reversed course and decided not to put the measure on the ballot, with some council members arguing that all city-parish needs should be considered as a whole before bringing any new tax proposal to voters.

Nothing else has emerged.

“Nobody wants to hear about additional taxes, but there are programs that would have to be cut,” Boudreaux said.

Members of the Future Needs/Funding Sources Committee took no action on the issue — their recommendations are not expected for several months — but members seemed sympathetic.

“As a committee, we have to continue to think he is doing a good job now, but those funds may be cut,” said committee member Chad Hanks, referring to the subsidy supporting the department.

Committee member Jerry Prejean said he believes the work of the department is critical for the community.

“You are also providing surrogate parents for these kids,” Prejean said.