Early voting is underway for the April 28, 2018 elections and in Lafayette Parish, voters will decide the fate of several property tax renewals.
In the City of Lafayette, voters will decide whether to renew taxes funding road maintenance and parks and recreation.
Voters across the parish will vote on two renewals, one for the juvenile detention center and one for the Lafayette Public Library.
For more on what’s on your ballot click here.
The library has a budget surplus, but despite that, officials say the tax is crucial for maintaining services.
"You know, I was one of the guilty ones who said, ‘oh, libraries don’t need to operate at the same level that they always had with digital services that we have now,’ but I’ve been proven to be wrong. And it doesn’t matter what your gut tells you if you go to visit any of the libraries especially before bedtime and after school, they’re filled. And I think it’s because, for a lot of kids, it’s their only connection to the internet," admitted Mayor-President Joel Robideaux.
According to Robideaux, the Lafayette Public Library System has a fund balance of around $14 million.
That, he said, is after the library system spent other surplus money to improve facilities.
"That surplus is there from a long time ago almost a decade ago, when they were going to build out new libraries. We used it to build out downtown public libraries and equip it with the computer systems and everything that it has. It’s also that fund balance is being used to fund the Southside Library in Scott," he said.
The library tax generates about $4 million annually for the parish’s libraries.
That money, city officials said, is necessary to keep lights on, payroll flowing and the libraries’ doors open.
"We have a library board with a ten-year plan with all the money which includes the surplus and what’s going on there is they’re going to do expansions at North Regional and East Regional. And there’s a lot of people who can’t afford books, who can’t afford internet. They’re just not able to get the education they want so they just come in and use our resources," said Keith Guidry, the library’s communications coordinator.
Officials say more than 300 people use one of the nine library branches every day.
Kirk Scoby is one of them. He visits the library multiple times a month, using the library’s computers and the internet to write and send work documents.
"There’s definitely wifi, it’s very accessible you don’t have to worry about it running out, you know, you have as much time as you can," he said. "Basically I can get a feel for the library and if I need help with anything I can always ask and there are people always assisting. And there’s a lot of needy people so I think it’s a good thing for a lot of people that don’t know about computers."