The Lafayette City-Parish Council is getting answers about a tax change voters will consider in December.
Right now, there’s a one-cent sales tax in unincorporated areas of the parish that funds the sheriff’s office. Last year it generated about $4 million.
But Sheriff Garber wants voters to consider a change with that tax. He is proposing to decrease it to 3/4 of a penny, but apply it to more people.
With a show of support from the Lafayette police, Sheriff Garber addressed the questions of the council.
According to Garber, the sales tax would generate $38 million parish-wide.
Most of that money would help pay for the growing demand for sheriff’s office services.
"The sheriff’s office provides [to the unincorporated areas] dispatch services, we serve their warrants, we provide crime scene investigation, we provide patrol support and a full-time SWAT team to assist the other municipalities," he said.
Nearly $14 million of it, half of the city’s revenue of that tax, would help the Lafayette Police Department address manpower issues.
"What I’m proposing to do by apportioning some funds between the law enforcement district and the city government is perfectly legal as long as it goes to law enforcement," said the Lafayette sheriff.
Garber does not require the council’s approval but since he included the Lafayette Police Department on the ballot, he hopes to win their support.
"You are in a rather unique position because you are a basically a board of one. It is your district, you are the CEO," said councilman Bruce Conque.
"Not everybody, I guess, understands my power as a sheriff to go before the voters, but I’m not asking the council tonight to adopt any resolution or to vote in favor of this. I’m here tonight because all of you represent voters in the parish and I would ask that you would inform the voters about it," said Garber.
"It was unfortunate that some comments made it seem as though this administration and the previous administration had done nothing to support the police department. The message that really needed to go out was to show the level the support that has been given throughout the years," said councilman Kenneth Boudreaux. "We made it a commitment to place this department at at least fourth in [highest] paid throughout the state of Louisiana. The record clearly reflects the acknowledgment of the fact that Lafayette Police Department is not at FBI standards and an effort to move into that direction has been in place. But Lafayette is still a safe community."
The tax item is expected to be on the December ballot.
The council also approved a lease agreement for the Lafayette Police Department’s downtown precinct.
It will be located at 209 West Vermilion St.