Council looks at parks millage

The City-Parish Council on Tuesday will consider whether to ask voters in April to approve a more than three-fold increase in Lafayette’s parks and recreation property tax.

The proposal does not call for any new recreation projects but is rather an attempt to “right-size” an outdated recreation tax that has not been increased since it first passed in 1961, Parks and Recreation Director Gerald Boudreaux said.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission unanimously approved the proposition last month, but the council also must sign off on the proposal before it goes before voters.

The measure calls for an April 6 vote in the city of Lafayette on whether to replace the existing 1.92-mill recreation tax with a new 7-mill tax, an increase that city-parish officials have said is needed to stave off parks and recreation budget cuts.

The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $70 a year under the 7-mill tax, versus $19.20 under the current 1.92 mill tax.

The proposition would dedicate 5 mills of the new 7-mill tax to operations and maintenance and dedicate the remaining 2 mills to construction, renovations and improvements for playgrounds and recreation centers.

Boudreaux has said that without new parks and recreation tax revenue, his department will likely face cuts because his budget now relies heavily on a subsidy from other areas of the city-parish budget.

The existing 1.92-mill recreation tax is projected to generate about $2.4 million next year, and recreation fees are expected to bring in another $3.1 million, the bulk of that from golf, according to figures from Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups.

The parks and recreation budget for next year is $11.9 million, meaning the department must rely on a budget subsidy of more than $6 million.

The recreation subsidy has long been an issue but has become more critical in recent tight budget years.

The proposed 7-mill tax would generate an estimated $8.5 million a year. That’s about $6 million more than the current recreation tax and enough to cover the expenses that are now being subsidized.

“The big thing is to fill that void, that gap,” Boudreaux said. “It’s just to become self-sufficient.”

When the recreation tax was first passed in 1961, the city had 10 parks, two recreation centers and one golf course, Boudreaux said.

The city now has 36 parks, 10 recreation centers and three golf courses.

The tax proposal in Lafayette comes after voters in the smaller municipalities of Broussard and Youngsville both approved recreation sales taxes last year.

Youngsville voters approved a one-cent sales tax that is being used to fund a 70-acre sports complex, and Broussard voters approved a half-cent sales for new parks and recreation facilities totalling 171 acres.