The gist: A new economic forecast projects that the Lafayette metro area will lead the state in jobs lost from the first quarter of this year to the second. Modeling by economist Gary Wagner of UL Lafayette’s B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration shows the area recovering less than 10% of those jobs over the next 18 months.
Regardless of the merit’s of Mayor-President Josh Guillory small business forgivable loan program, the process he’s used doesn’t lead to good policymaking while ignoring our community’s looming housing crisis.
Lafayette’s city general fund is facing such large deficits that even zeroing out what critics call government waste won’t be enough to close the gap.
The gist: City Council members and the administration will go into executive session Tuesday to discuss the administration’s “legal strategy” for backing away from a lawsuit filed to stop several special taxing districts. The mayor-president and some council members are at odds over the issue. Less controversial decisions will be made on applying for millions in grants and continuing the process of splitting control of boards between the city and parish councils.
Even if the coronavirus wasn’t causing a global depression, Lafayette’s city and parish general funds would be in rough shape. But now shortfalls in revenue are going to force some painful cuts.
At a time of incredible economic and financial uncertainty, the parish council can’t afford to rededicate CREATE’s millage to any other dedicated fund. Instead what’s needed is flexibility to navigate an uncertain future, which is why this millage should be redirected to the parish general fund.
Council Preview: Rededicating CREATE, refinancing bonds, re-litigating taxing districts, reorganizing boards and more
The gist: After canceling their April 7 meetings, Lafayette’s city and parish councils are back in session Tuesday with jam-packed agendas that include refinancing hundreds of millions in bonds, reorganizing more than a dozen boards and commissions, rededicating the CREATE millage, and more. They’ll also be trying out a new system for citizens to call in to make comments while city hall remains closed to the public because of coronavirus.
Calling an election to rededicate CREATE tax. If approved, this resolution would put a public vote on the presidential ballot to rededicate the $500,000 property tax for CREATE — a cultural economy initiative passed by the previous administration — to rural fire protection and parish roads and bridges. That would increase funding for fire protection in unincorporated Lafayette by $350,000 and for roads and bridges by $150,000.
$360 million in bond refinancing. The finance department is looking to refinance bonds to take advantage of low interest rates and get ahead of the likelihood that Lafayettes’s bond ratings will fall because of the snowballing recession’s impact on LCG’s tax revenue. Lower bond ratings mean higher interest rates, a cost that would be passed on to taxpayers and LUS ratepayers. The resolutions would allow the administration to approach the state bond commission.
$41 million in new debt to backstop the government. That’s $36 million for the city and $5 million for the parish. While the city and parish may not need to use this new debt, LCG Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups wants the loan in place if either entity’s tax revenues fall so much that they need the money to pay the bills.
The joint councils will introduce ordinances to reorganize 14 boards and commissions. These changes are a result of splitting the consolidated council into two. Part of that process is reorganizing all of the local boards and commissions the councils have authority over to reflect this new structure. Here’s a list of all the boards and commissions on the docket:
- Lafayette Advisory Commission on Crime Prevention
- Downtown Management Committee
- Heymann Performing Arts Center and Frem F. Boustany Convention Center Advisory Commission
- Lafayette Parish Convention and Visitors Commission
- People’s Safety Initiative
- Lafayette Economic Development Authority
- Lafayette Parish Bayou Vermilion District
- Lafayette Parish Library Board of Control
- Lafayette Natural History Museum and Planetarium Commission
- Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway Commission
- Evangeline Thruway Redevelopment Team
- Lafayette Preservation Commission
- Lafayette City-Parish President’s Awareness Committee for Citizens with Disabilities
- Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board
The joint councils will also look at revising rules to encourage bringing adjudicated properties back into commerce. The first change would remove the prohibition against including rental in property renovation plans. The second change would remove the $500 fee nonprofits have to pay to apply to take over an adjudicated property.
The city council will consider moving money around to pay for the $1.5 million loan to the Bottle Arts Lofts project. Rather than coming out of the city’s general fund, this money would be paid for out of the University Avenue Initiative in the city’s capital fund. This $1.5 million is structured as a 40-year zero interest loan to private developers to help pay for the costs of turning the old Coca-Cola bottling plant on Cameron Street into rent-controlled artist lofts.
Who do city-parish attorneys represent? City Councilman Pat Lewis has asked for a briefing on the legal department’s obligations to the council. The discussion item stems in part from a conflict over the future of the recently passed special taxing districts that are the subject of a lawsuit filed against the city of Lafayette. Last week, the legal department withdrew a motion filed in the case to defend the districts. Mayor-President Josh Guillory opposes the EDDs, which appear to still have strong support on the city council.
At issue is whose interests city-parish attorneys are required to represent. According to Lewis, the question is about more than just these special taxing districts that pit the mayor against the council. Lewis wants to know how future disagreements between the mayor-president and city or parish councils, or between the councils themselves, will move forward when legal obstacles arise. This is a particularly pressing issue as the councils head into what was already likely to be a contentious budget cycle, with the parties working through figuring out who’s legally obligated to pay for what.
If you want to participate in these council meetings, there’s a new stay-at-home protocol. If you don’t want to speak but do want to submit your support for or opposition to an agenda item, email email@example.com. In that email, identify which council meeting agenda (city or parish), which agenda item number, your name, and your position for or against. If you do want to speak, call 337-291-8428 between 2 p.m. tomorrow and the time that the agenda item you want to comment on is introduced. Leave a voicemail with your name, call back number, and the agenda item you want to comment on and they’ll call you back once the agenda item is read. The five-minute limit on comments will still apply.
The gist: Data projections by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank rank Lafayette among the areas at highest risk for substantial joblessness in the country. Among the top 150 largest metro areas in the country, Lafayette ranked 20th, ahead of New Orleans, Shreveport and Baton Rouge.
The gist: The purpose of the recently passed federal stimulus is to counterbalance the hit that’s happening from stay-in-place orders crippling economic activity. While this stimulus will help a number of businesses weather this storm, it’s not near enough to protect Lafayette’s oil and gas industry, which faces existential threats that require more than short-term subsidies.
The gist: Local and national analysts warn that 30% or more of the nation’s workforce could lose their jobs because of the economic freeze associated with the coronavirus. So long as oil prices remain low — a function of an international price war and a collapse in consumption — the Lafayette metro area could see as many as 60,000 people out of work over the next few months.
The gist: Acadiana’s businesses already feel widespread economic pain, according to a survey conducted by a coalition of local economic development and community organizations, including LEDA, One Acadiana and more. Of roughly 1,000 local businesses surveyed between March 19 and March 25, 91% expected revenue to decline.
91% of respondents expect revenue to be down. 72% of all respondents say they expect revenue to be down significantly.
The majority of respondents have already seen their businesses hurt, with order cancellations and decreased demand. As a result, a majority of respondents are watching spending closely and adjusting work schedules.
35% have already reduced staff or expect to. Another 32.7% are unsure if they’ll need to do that. An average of 64% have already reduced operational hours, shifts, work days, and/or wages, with that number increasing to 88% for those businesses who responded on the last day the survey was live.
More than 20% said they couldn’t make it a month given current economic conditions. Some couldn’t make it another week. Nearly half of businesses were unsure how long they could hold out. Here’s a breakdown based on how much longer they felt they could stay open given current conditions:
- 7% one week
- 22.2% one month
- 8.8% six months
- 2.3% other
- 45.1% unsure how long
- 14.5% other
Respondents encompassed a variety of types, industries, and sizes of businesses, with more than half having 1-10 employees, more than 70% being located in Lafayette Parish.
The federal stimulus could help local businesses navigate these choppy waters. This survey was conducted before the federal stimulus package was passed, part of which is designed to keep small businesses afloat for a couple of months. Some of the responses to this survey referenced their hope this would keep them alive. The forgivable loans available to small businesses to retain staff are starting to take applications today.
This coalition plans on conducting another survey in mid-April to track the ongoing impact of COVID-19. Full results of this first survey can be seen here.