LCG Summit Yields “Unity” As Solution To Budget Woes
With about 60 people in attendance, the Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Revenue Summit may not have produced a flurry of suggestions or recommendations on how to solve LCG’s dire financial quandaries, the event produced some optimism based upon unity among all of LCG constituents that were present.
The summit’s guest speakers, who are parish-wide elected officials, and commission chairs, had few ideas with any profundity to solve the parish’s budget problem. There was agreement that the LCG council has to evaluate “wants” versus “needs”
Though Committee member Jay Castille stressed the summit is for the committee to hear suggestions on how to fix the budget deficit, a contingent of speakers rather stressed the detriment of defunding their respective entities.
“We are not here to raise anyone’s taxes,” Castille said. “We are not here to take away any money. We want you guys to tell us what you think will help.”
For the greater duration of the three-hour summit, the committee heard statistics of currently underfunded entities, hypothetical budget catastrophes, and doomsday consequences of what could happen if current budgetary matters worsen for individual departments throughout the city and parish.
Committee member Bruce Conque stressed a few dominant factors that contributed to the dire budgetary dilemma.
The first factor: PROPERTY TAXES. Conque stressed property taxes are dedicated funds that cannot be spent elsewhere. He added property taxes have been less than projected.
Another issue he addressed is annexation. Annexation of retail areas in unincorporated areas of Lafayette Parish by municipalities reduce the amount of taxes collected by the parish. Those taxes are swallowed up by the annexing municipality.
To oversimplify the majority of the comments made by the speakers who were handed the mic during the 3-hour gathering, recurring statements included the following tenets:
- “We have to make some tough decisions.”
- “We have to work together”
- “We have to evaluate wants versus needs.”
“This is a real huge very complex issue,” committee member Kenneth Boudreaux said . “There is this issue with trust. There is no wrong-doing. There is no misappropriation. There is nothing available.”
After hearing from 25 public officials, an underlying theme was, “Unity is needed to solve the problem.”
“What is the one thing we can do together to fix the parish budget crisis,” Boudreaux asked in closing.
When the floor was opened to public comments, there were only five residents who stepped up to offer suggestions.
While an undercurrent from many of the previous commenters suggested a renewed look at LCG charter—mostly for the administration of “true consolidation”—Steve Oats said the government does not have time to explore that option before the dire financial crisis hits critical mass.
Rodney Richard urged the committee to reduce red tape for contractors who wish to develop properties within Lafayette Parish.
"There’s got to be a way to consolidate things to get things rocking and rolling for development,” Richard stressed.
Patty Carter suggested a couple of pragmatic options including charging fees for the parish’s festivals that draw huge throngs to the Hub City and its suburbs. She also recommended adding taxes along the tourism front by way of increased hotel taxes.
Jacob White suggested exploring marijuana decriminalization a revenue stream.
According to committee members Kenneth Boudreaux and Committee Chair Kevin Naquin, the next step is to compile the data from Wednesday night’s event. From there, Naquin stressed there has to be more public education on what LCG actually does with the tax revenue collected.