Council rebuffs Robideaux’s second grab at library funds

The new West Regional Library will open in Scott May 14. Photo courtesy Lafayette Parish Library

The gist: The mayor-president could not flip the votes needed to put an $18 million library fund balance transfer before voters this fall. Meanwhile, a northside library took another step toward becoming a reality.

Get caught up, quickly: Earlier this year, Robideaux introduced a proposal to transfer $18 million of the library’s $26 million unassigned fund balance to roads, bridges and drainage. The council ultimately passed an amended ballot initiative, reducing the total to $10 million — $8 million for drainage and $2 million for parks and recreation. However, in an April email to council members, Robideaux took aim at furniture purchases for the library’s newest branch opening in Scott this month. Reprising attacks on the library’s financial management, he asked the council to revise the transfer back to $18 million.

No one on the council spoke in favor of Robideaux’s proposal. The consensus was the council had already resolved the matter. The M-P’s accusations that the library spent too much on furniture at the West Regional Library did nothing to sway council  votes. The final vote was 7-2 with only council members Jared Bellard and William Theriot voting in favor of it.

Robideaux tepidly defended his proposal. Rededicating $8 million to drainage was a win, he said, taking hard criticism from council members and the public. “We’ve at least got the attention of the people whose money we’re talking about,” he said.  

The library’s board dug in and produced financial projections, contradicting Robideaux’s math. The board’s presentation noted the impact that losing $18 million would have on building a northside library and increasing the size of the North Regional Library in Carencro. Even the $10 million transfer poses a risk; best-case-scenario projections show the library’s fund balance in a deficit within the next decade, in large part because of last year’s failed millage renewal.

Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux requested the new library be added to the budget at the next council meeting. The library board of control voted to include a request for $8 million to build a Northeast Regional Library in Boudreaux’s district east of the Evangeline Thruway. Given that the library has the fund balance to commit to this project now, Boudreaux doesn’t want to wait for this to go through the budget process. Instead, he hopes to get the council to approve a budget amendment that will allocate those funds immediately.

What to watch for: Whether Boudreaux can get the council to allocate money for the Northeast Regional Library at the next council meeting in two weeks and whether the public votes in favor of transferring $10 million from the library in the fall.