Council Preview 11/4: Parish taxes may be going up and down, a developer asks for a handout, Guillory pushes for symbolic funding for police and fire

Illustration by Peter DeHart

The gist: A new .2% parishwide sales tax may be coming up for public vote to help fix the parish’s broken budget. The old federal courthouse developers don’t want to pay more in property taxes. Police and fire may get more money without actually getting more money. And the privatization of city and parish parks continues.

City Council Agenda

Parish Council Agenda

Parish taxes may be going up and down. The Parish Council is slated to vote on two resolutions: one to call a public vote on instituting a new .2% parishwide sales tax and the other to lower parish millages to their voter-approved maximums. This new sales tax could generate about $12 million per year and go a long way to stabilizing the parish’s finances, which have been in tatters for years. A few weeks back, the Parish Council and the mayor-president approved increasing some millages beyond their voter-approved maximums to offset the decline in total assessed property values in the parish. They felt forced to do that as the parish can’t afford to lose any more revenue. If this resolution passes, a vote will be held March 20 for the citizens of the parish to decide whether to approve this new sales tax. If — and only if — the sales tax passes, property taxes for roads and bridges, drainage, the jail, the courthouse complex, the juvenile detention center, stormwater management and general obligation bonds will be lowered per the resolution.

The old federal courthouse developers have asked the City Council to not pay city property taxes. Their request comes through the restoration tax abatement program. The way it works is developers who are spending money redeveloping historic properties request subsidies from local taxing authorities in the form of not having to pay property taxes for a period of years on the increased value of these properties after they’ve been developed. In the case of the old federal courthouse, the development is budgeted for $16 million, and the total value of the taxes the developer is asking to be abated over a five-year period is more than $1.3 million — more than the $1.1 million the developers paid for the property in the first place. Redevelopment of this property is at a crossroads; while demolition of the interior has started, actual construction hasn’t. Developers have submitted plans to remove all retail and commercial space from their construction plans that are being reviewed by the development and planning department. But there has not been any formal action taken to request that the City Council change the requirements of the purchase agreement. Council Chairman Pat Lewis has indicated he’ll pull this item from the agenda, but it’s likely going to come back in the future. And there could be more fireworks to come as the original purchase agreement includes penalties that could start being assessed in January if construction isn’t complete, which it certainly won’t be.

Guillory’s looking to get final approval on creating a new $10 million fund for police and fire salaries. LCG received more than $13 million from the CARES Act to reimburse the costs of the response to the pandemic. Guillory has proposed allocating $10 million of that to create a new Police and Fire Sustainability and Resiliency Fund. His stated purpose for doing this is to ensure the availability of funding to cover the future costs of state-mandated cost-of-living increases to fire and police salaries. But functionally, this fund is more symbolic than meaningful. That’s because it doesn’t involve more money for police and fire but rather taking money from one bucket, the city general fund, and moving it into a new bucket, this police and fire fund. The only functional benefit that might come from doing this is that it may make it politically more difficult to spend this money on other things since doing so would take it away from giving raises to police and fire. But even if the City Council does vote to create this fund, there’s nothing stopping it from moving this money back into the general fund in the future. 

Books and booze hopefully coming to Downtown. Beausoleil Books recently opened its doors Downtown, and is now seeking a conditional use permit to operate a bar/lounge in the new spot. If the City Council gives its approval, we can finally start the serious work of determining which drinks pair best with the classics. This item will be introduced tonight and up for final approval at the next council meeting.

The administration is renewing its push to establish a new curfew for minors Downtown. If it gets successfully introduced by the City Council tonight and receives final approval at the next meeting, it will become illegal for minors under the age of 17 to be Downtown unsupervised from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. unless they’re running an errand, working, in an emergency, close to home, attending an official supervised event, or exercising their first amendment rights. Minors found in violation of this curfew will be subject to community service hours and potentially having their custody transferred from their guardians to the Department of Youth Services and Corrections for up to 90 days. Custodians of these minors could also be fined $50-$500 and/or assigned community service hours.

Parish Council Chairman Kevin Naquin is putting a backup plan in place for offloading Scott Park. The Parish Council recently approved an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Scott to take over this park. Now Naquin is seeking approval for a cooperative endeavor agreement with Scott Area Team Sports to take over that park. The idea is to make sure to have another partner in place if the city of Scott fails to move forward with the deal. The city of Scott is voting on whether to approve its side of the agreement Thursday.

The city’s tennis courts may be getting a new manager. The City Council will vote to authorize the mayor-president to enter into a contract with Acadiana Community Tennis Association to operate and maintain the tennis facilities at Beaver Park and Thomas Park. Currently the city spends $159,000 per year to operate and maintain these courts while only generating $37,000 in revenue for a net loss of $122,000. Under this new deal, the city would reduce that net loss to $22,000. The city would still be on the hook for putting up the money for the materials to resurface the courts on a regular basis, providing utilities, maintaining the grounds and lighting, and providing WiFi. But ACTA would take over daily trash pickup, upkeep up of the courts, and provide the manpower and infrastructure to manage access to the court through new point of sale systems and an online reservation system, as well as insurance and background checks on instructors. 

The city’s sidewalks should be improving. Matching grants have been secured for a couple of different projects, including Phase II of the Northside High School Sidewalk Network, construction of a bicycle and pedestrian facility along Sixth Street adjacent to the Rosa Parks Transportation Center, and a new sidewalk along College Road. 

Students without Internet at home may soon be getting a new option. Link & Learn LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Schumacher Foundation, is working to build a new wireless overlay network to provide free internet access to low income students in the Lafayette Parish School System. At the council meeting, Link & Learn is taking the next step to arrange a pole attachment agreement with LUS to start deploying this network.

A 2% general pay increase is back on the docket. If approved by both councils, it will restore the raises Guillory advocated for postponing back in April.

Properties requesting to be reclassified in the development code:

AddressesCurrent classification Requested reclassification
308/312 Sunnyvale Ave & 308/313 Oak StCommercial HeavyResidential 1
106, 108, 112, 114 Whittington DrCommercial Heavy 1Residential-Mixed 1
304 Surrey StCommercial Heavy 1Mixed Neighborhood 1

Board and commission vacancies:

Board/CommissionAppointing AuthorityRequirements
Board of Zoning AdjustmentCity CouncilCity resident
People’s Safety InitiativeCity CouncilCommunity organizer
People’s Safety InitiativeCity CouncilDietician
People’s Safety InitiativeCity CouncilMedical Doctor
Lafayette Waterworks District SouthCity CouncilDistrict resident
Lafayette Waterworks District SouthParish CouncilDistrict resident