What changes to the parish budget and tax structure will you consider to stabilize finances, meet state mandated expenses and invest in parish infrastructure?
As a realist, I feel that no options are off the table, though I do believe decisions should be well-informed and well-thought-out. Cuts, re-dedications, state/federal funding, and newly dedicated taxes are all ways to fix our budget. When you have homes flooding and roads deteriorating, it’d be unwise and simply impractical to say, “Sorry your house flooded, but I just don’t believe in [blank] to fix it.” Having that mindset causes stagnation, and real-world issues don’t get solved that way. The question should be, “What services do the people of Lafayette want (or don’t want)?” The people of Lafayette Parish need to be engaged in these discussions and given a seat at the table. Open forums, town hall meetings, and transparency with what is going on in government needs to be foremost. To reiterate, I believe in a tax-last approach for fixing budgetary issues, but I am open to considering all possible solutions that are the most effective, efficient, and fiscally realistic way to address the issues we face as a parish. The needs of the people come first, and I am up to the challenge of finding creative and conservative ways to meet those needs. Regarding state-mandated expenses, we should certainly fund those. If the legal experts indicate that we must pay those funds, then we will pay them. It would be unnecessary and wasteful to spend taxpayer funds on litigation that we can avoid, especially if we are legally bound to do so.
How will you promote sustainable economic development, that doesn’t add to consolidated government’s financial burden, and diversify the local economy?
Currently, we are using business tax incentives to promote economic development, which I don't think is a bad idea. However, if it is going to be sustainable, we need to have a framework and a detailed policy in place so that we can ensure fiscal prosperity, return on investment, and equality in diversification. As a governing body, we need to eliminate any grey areas for the incentives that we offer. For instance, having a well-thought-out policy that clearly delineates how business tax incentives operate will not only eliminate uncertainty and hesitation for the new business owner but will also ensure that we are fairly allowing all businesses to participate equally, thus encouraging a diverse local economy. Further, we also need to regularly assess whether an incentive is providing its return on investment. Are those businesses meeting the agreed-upon performance criteria to receive said tax incentive? If a business isn't hiring the amount of people they say they will, then we need to draw back those tax incentives. Establishing business tax incentives and regularly assessing their overall cost-benefit will ensure sustainable growth and longevity for the businesses that choose to settle in Acadiana.
How will you make available more funding to repair and improve roads and other infrastructure in our district?
One of the issues we have is that we are building roads that we can’t afford to fix in 10-15 years. We also have bridges that are in desperate need of repair. My plan is similar to my response for drainage. We need to find any surplus or projects that are not needed, evaluate our current millages, figure out what we don’t want to pay for, reach out to our state and federal reps to bring our tax dollars back home, and, as a last resort, go to the taxpayers for a dedicated tax for road and infrastructure development and maintenance. With regards to any new taxes, however, we need to ensure they meet the SMART requirements, meaning tax measures must have goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound. That is a measurable way to ensure we have done our due diligence and are managing project-specific tax dollars appropriately.
What will you do to invest in drainage infrastructure and develop policies and strategies for stormwater management in our district?
Drainage needs to be made a priority. First, we need to comb through the budget and see if there are any existing projects or surpluses that we do not need. Second, we need to ensure that our millages are set correctly and that we are not overtaxing for government services. Third, we need to see which services the citizens of the parish do not want to pay for and rededicate any millages that we can. Fourth, we need to work with our state and federal representatives to bring some of our tax monies back to us. Lastly, we may need to look into establishing new taxes specifically dedicated to drainage; though new taxes, in my opinion, should be a last resort.
With regards to storm water management strategies, the new Lafayette Parish Council will not only need to work with other cities in our parish but also with other parish governing bodies, looking at what other areas are doing successfully and adapting their strategies to our area. We will also need to hear from the people of Lafayette Parish. Our locals are the ones who know their landscape the best and how changes will affect it. With regards to policy, we need to establish a preventative maintenance drainage plan as well as a policy that addresses how we go about making drastic changes to our storm water management plan. Any good plan needs a framework, so that solutions are well-thought-out, proactive, efficient, and effective—not only for the time-being but for the future as well. Establishing policies that are informed by experts in the field as well as local input will help us avoid temporary, reactive fixes that do not have lasting or beneficial effects.
How will you manage parish population growth and development patterns to address rising maintenance and infrastructure costs and mitigate flood risks?
This is where having good maintenance plans and policies come into play. Good policies will provide the framework to address growth concerns. For drainage, we need to model what the flood zones will look like in 50-100 years and build to those FUTURE models. That way we don’t have homes that are 2 years old and flooding. We also need to look at past flood events to see where we are doing wrong. In the business world, we call those “postmortems.” When something goes wrong, we need to figure out exactly what happened, what we have been doing wrong, and what we are going to do to help prevent those issues from happening again.
With regards to rising maintenance and infrastructure costs, we need to make sure that we don’t saddle the taxpayers with the costs of a poorly built infrastructure. We need to ensure that the work done on roads and drainage are being completed and measure up to certain standards. If those standards aren’t holding up, we need to adjust them. Continual evaluation and improvement systems work, and it’s something I have been doing in my career for years. Things that worked 10, 20, 50 years ago may not work today, and we need to be aware of and open to evaluation and informed change.