Voters to decide on tax

City voters will decide on April 6 whether to more than triple the property tax that funds parks and recreation in Lafayette.

The City-Parish Council voted 5-3 Tuesday to put the issue on the ballot next year, following a recommendation made last month by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission.

The measure, if approved by voters, would replace the existing 1.92-mill recreation tax with a new 7-mill tax.

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

Parks and Recreation Director Gerald Boudreaux said the increase is not for new projects or programs but rather to eliminate the annual subsidy that comes from other areas of the city-parish general fund to support his department.

That subsidy has come under increased scrutiny as city-parish officials have struggled in recent years to cover other government expenses.

“We are going to have to close facilities and curtail programs,” Boudreaux said. “Without the subsidy, we can’t operate.”

Councilmen Brandon Shelvin, Don Bertrand, Jared Bellard, Jay Castille and Kenneth Boudreaux voted in support of the ballot measure. Councilmen Andy Naquin, Keith Patin and William Theriot opposed it. Councilmen Kevin Naquin was absent.

Councilman William Theriot questioned the need for additional revenue and unsuccessfully appealed to delay the measure to allow for a detailed financial analysis of the Parks and Recreation Department.

Councilman Andy Naquin did not dispute the need for more money but said he favored a sales tax rather than a property tax.

“Everybody benefits from the park and recreation department in this parish,” he said. “I hate to see that millage put just on the property owners here.”

Council members in support of the ballot measure argued that the council should defer judgment to voters.

“I’m not going to sit here tonight and argue this tax for or against. I think it’s up to the voters to do that,” Bertrand said.

Four residents spoke against the proposed tax, including Ross Little Jr., who asked council members to carefully study the need for a new tax before putting it on the ballot.

“We are feeling a tax burden like we have never felt in America,” he said.

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.

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, according to figures from Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups.

A subsidy of more than $6 million is needed to fully fund next year’s parks and recreation budget of about $12 million, according to the figures. The proposed 7-mill tax would generate an estimated $8.5 million a year, bring in about $6 million more each year to cover the cost now being funded by the subsidy.

The existing 1.92-mill recreation tax was first passed in 1961.

The tax revenue has not kept pace with the expansion of parks and recreation facilities and programs the past five decades, Gerald Boudreaux said.