Feb 27, 2012 7:30 PM by Melissa Hawkes
Would you be willing to pay more in sales tax to improve public safety in Lafayette? You could be voting on a new a new half cent sales tax to do just that.
The bulk of the money would go towards funding new fire stations, lately the Lafayette Fire Department has been stretched thin and Chief Robert Benoit worries about what will happen if that doesn't change soon.
Chief Robert Benoit said, "it's causing the firefighters undue stress and we don't have the number of firefighters we need to respond in those areas."
There are 13 fire stations in Lafayette, but Chief Benoit said with the cities growth two more need to be added, which would increase the force from 250 to about 315.
Chief Benoit said, "as a fire chief looking at safety of not only our personnel, but occupants we are sworn to protect. We need to get at least four people on a truck."
The sales tax would generate 16 million dollars. Right now a property tax helps raise about 10 million dollars for the fund, so approving the sales tax would generate an extra six million dollars. However, the property tax is up for renewal this year.
Chief Benoit said, "the cost of hiring personnel and paying their salaries in the long run is very very expensive."
If the extra personnel doesn't get added, the department's fire rating will go down, increasing insurance rates for everyone. Chief Benoit is hoping council members will come up with a solution to the problem.
"Our stand point in the fire department is we know we need the extra fire stations and the personnel," he said. "We are looking for them to come up with the funding to make it happen."
Council members will only be discussing the sales tax increase at tomorrow's meeting. They aren't expected to come up with a resolution. Another option is renewing and increasing the current property tax residents are already paying. Regardless the public will have the final vote in this issue.