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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: This week’s agenda is notable for what’s not on it. The council has blocked from the agenda the mayor-president’s bid to repeal five special taxing districts created in February. Other legislation takes aim at the mayor-president’s authority over council procedures and proclamations. The kumbaya between the new administration and new councils appears to be fading.