There’s $700 million on the table in this year’s proposed budget. How LCG uses it, in theory, reflects our community’s priorities. And those priorities can make a huge impact on what it’s like to live in Lafayette.
Engaging in this budget-making process can be daunting. The budget itself is hundreds of pages long and loaded with jargon. It takes hours of monotonous hearings and intricate policy discussions to finalize it.
But we can take control. All you have to do is follow these four easy steps:
- Read the budget
- Learn the process
Read the Budget
This is basically how the budget works: revenue goes into funds and is spent on expenses.
Revenue comes from a variety of sources, including property taxes (or millages), sales taxes, other taxes, state and federal grants, utility bills and charges for fines and fees.
LCG accounts for all of these revenues on the Schedule of Revenues by Source.
Funds assign money for the functions of city and parish government. Most are dedicated to specific services like drainage, roads or parks. For instance, a dedicated drainage tax flows to the drainage fund to cover drainage-related expenses. General funds account for undedicated money. Here’s a list of pages to check out:
- LCG describes each fund in the List of Funds included in the introduction
- Fund balances are recorded in Estimated Fund Balances
- Revenue sources are recorded on the Schedule of Revenues by Fund
- LCG also issued a secondary budget broken down by fund
Expenses can fall into one of three categories: personnel (salaries and benefits), professional services (contracts and contractors) and capital outlay (infrastructure, public facilities, equipment and more). Each department lists its budget, starting with elected officials.
LCG also reports capital spending separately. Equipment and other purchases are listed by department. Infrastructure and major projects (excluding LUS and LUS Fiber) are listed in the Five-Year Capital Improvement plan.
Understand the Process
There are essentially three phases to LCG’s budget process:
- Proposal: The mayor-president and his administration propose a budget
- Review: The councils review and amend it
- Adoption: The mayor-president signs off, with the power to veto amendments
At final adoption, the mayor-president may veto the councils’ changes. That veto can be overridden by four or eight votes depending on if the line item is solely funded by the city or the parish or jointly funded.
It doesn’t stop there. Budgets are living documents, and they’re adjusted throughout the year by the councils and administration through mid-year budget amendments.
Review is where most of the action is during the budget-making process. The councils hold hearings, working through the budget line by line and proposing amendments. At the end of that process, the councils vote on amendments, some individually if there’s a dispute; the rest as a group.
Amendments are where the public has the most opportunity for impact. Every line item in the budget can be changed if enough council members and/or the mayor-president want them to. And that happens regularly, especially when council members hear from their constituents.
The most direct and immediate way you can engage in the budget-making process is to attend or watch the budget hearings. Here’s the schedule:
Aug. 4 – Drainage, Transportation, Public Works (Joint)
Aug. 9 – Streets, Utilities, Public Safety, Parks & Rec (City)
Aug. 11 – Parking, Criminal Justice & Corrections, Health, Library, Elections (Parish)
Aug. 11 – Community Development & Planning, City Court, City Marshal, Disaster Response, Administration (Joint)
Aug. 16 – Public Hearing
Aug. 30 – Wrap Up and Amendments
Sept. 8 – Final Adoption
After budget review, there is a public hearing. You’ll only get three minutes to speak, but it provides a direct channel for your voice.
Public comment is available during final adoption. The public can weigh in on amendments as they’re considered for vote.
You can also weigh in with us. Tell us what issues matter most to you. Should LCG spend more money on parks? What about transportation or drainage?
The best way to get involved is to engage your council representative directly. Some are responsive. Some aren’t. Don’t let that discourage you.
- Have a question about a project in your district? Email your council rep.
- Are you part of an organization impacted by budget? Request a meeting with them.
- Upset about a decision? Tell a friend. Write a letter. Post it on social media. Organize a protest.
- Happy about a decision? Tell a friend. Write a letter. Post it on social media. Organize a celebration.
- Are you not getting the answers you need? Tell a reporter. Pressure never hurts. You can email us here.
There’s nothing wrong with advocating for what you believe in. Our elected representatives do respond to public pressure. Find your council district here and email your council rep at one of the addresses below:
It’s our money
In the end, if you can tune out political cynicism, citizens do have the ability to make a difference. LCG’s budget process is a key opportunity to do that every year.