Lafayette Parish voters will decide on two property tax measures in November, one to fund the district court and the other to fund the parish jail.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council narrowly approved the measures with 5-4 votes on each. The 2-mill tax for the court’s operational expenses would raise a projected $4.5 million each year. The 2.94-mill jail proposition would fund the facility’s maintenance, operations and improvements with a projected $6.7 million each year.
The council shelved a third, 2-mill tax proposal for the operational expenses of the District Attorney’s office in the parish.
Council Chair Kevin Naquin, District 1, said at the beginning of the meeting that there may be additional funding sources for that office, although he did not elaborate.
District Attorney Keith Stutes attended the meeting. He said he didn’t know why the proposal was pulled from the agenda.
Naquin chairs a four-member council committee that for the last few years has studied the parish’s financial needs and how best to fund those needs in the future. The tax propositions are a result of the committee’s work. Naquin said that for years, the committee avoided tax propositions in favor of budget cuts, but the budget could not be cut any further.
Casting votes against the measures were Jared Bellard, District 5; Nanette Cook, District 7; Liz Webb Hebert, District 8; and William Theriot, District 9.
The state requires parishes to fund their respective judicial systems, but funding in the parish side of Lafayette Consolidated Government has dried up.
Property owners already pay for a 1.9-mill tax for the jail. But that tax was approved decades ago when the facility occupied the top floor of the courthouse. The jail now occupies another facility with three times as many inmates as its capacity.
Another 2.34-mill property tax funds the courthouse complex and the jail, but it doesn’t produce enough money to sufficiently fund both.
Several community members voiced their opinions about what they would do instead of putting the tax on the ballot. Other community members urged the council to allow the public to be more involved with these decisions.