The Lafayette City-Parish Council is closer to a balanced budget after a special meeting today.
Last month, a measure to sell the Buchanan Street parking garage to the city failed, leaving the parish budget nearly $800,000 short.
Council members and the administration now have a plan in place to close the gap.
Because of an influx of sales taxes and the potential sale of the Buchanan Street garage, Lafayette City-Parish Council members say they won’t have to make significant budget cuts, which is coming as a relief to everyone involved.
“So, today’s meeting was not cutting 770,000 [dollars]; it was trying to fix the gap of 256, roughly 300,000. We could’ve essentially done some more damage to our community, service-wise and employee-wise and departments. It’s a big relief that we don’t have to do that,” said Councilman Kevin Naquin.
The gap was closed by the more than $300,000 in tax revenue brought in from the school board.
The administration also budgeted the anticipation of the sale of the condemned garage.
“Once we know that the city is not interested in buying a parking garage that is now closed, doesn’t produce revenue, and never produced enough revenue to keep it going, then we realized through this process other people, other businesses have shown interest,” said Naquin.
Four Lafayette judges spoke before the council about how the budget crisis is affecting everyone.
“Obviously with the parking garage being closed, this is a great inconvenience to the public and to the employees of the courthouse. We don’t know what the plan is,” said Judge David Blanchet.
Most of them questioned the council as to why their employees were not considered for the cost of living raise.
Last month, the council overrode Mayor-President Joel Robideaux’s veto, granting LCG employees a 2% cost of living raise.
However, that raise doesn’t include employees of the courthouse.
Judge Charlie Fitzgerald said, “The only parish employees that were excluded, our judicial employees, the Lafayette receptionists that we have at the courthouse and our court reporters, it has to be an inadvertent oversight. I can’t fathom that anybody would arbitrarily define one group and exclude them from something like this.”
Robideaux says he’s been approached by people interested in buying the garage and has placed a one-year timetable on selling it for $500,000.
However, he didn’t say when it will go up for bid.
“So, we’ll figure out what works best for the parish as it relates to the garage, keeping in mind there are a lot of interested parties, but I would say that it’s a situation that we know needs to be addressed as soon as possible,” said Robideaux.