The Lafayette Public Library released a statement saying that Mayor-President Joel Robideaux accused the library of “mislead[ing] taxpayers.”
Robideaux had said the library used parish millages construction projects when the library already had a dedicated millage for construction.
Read the full statement from the library below:
As supporters and trustees of the Lafayette Public Library System, we adamantly dispute and challenge Mayor Robideaux’s unfounded accusations from Tuesday night’s Council meeting that the library has mislead taxpayers.
On November 5, 2002, taxpayers approved two separate measures on the same ballot [https://voterportal.sos.la.gov/Graphical#!#TabFull]:
- Authorizationto issue up to $40 million in bonds to fund new library construction across the parish; and
- a 2-mill property tax for “constructing, improving, maintaining, and operating” public libraries.
Although up to $40 million in bonds were authorized by the voters, LCG issued only $21.9 million in bonds for library construction. This was a public process and public bid, done in accordance with the law.
The 2-mill property tax was collected beginning with the 2003-04 budget year. By 2010, the funds collected from that millage accumulated to an amount that the library board decided to approve—in a public meeting—that it would forego issuing any more additional bonds and establish a ‘Pay-as-You-Go’ (PAYG) construction plan for the library projects that had not been funded by the bond issuance.(http://lafayettepubliclibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Library-Board-Minutes-6.8.10.pdf) Doing so saved taxpayers more than $10 million in interest payments. By only issuing one-half of the authorized bonds and adopting the PAYGapproach, the library board was demonstrating conservative planning and fiscal responsibility.
Improvements like the downtown Main Library renovations and regional branches such as North Regional (Carencro), South Regional, East Regional(Broussard/Youngsville), and West Regional (Scott) have been or will be paid for by a mix of PAYGfunds and bonds. Again, that financing plan of bonds and PAYGwill save taxpayers millions of dollars in bond interest. Those results appear clearly in the LCG public record.
All of these processes and decisions have happened in public and are supported by the public record. We have been and continue to be accountable to the taxpayers of this parish. It is a responsibility we take seriously.
The approach taken by Mayor Robideaux to garner support for his proposal to raid the library’s reserve funds is misleading, inappropriate, and ultimately damaging to the public’s trust in government. Moreover, it impugns the integrity of past and current library administrators, trustees and supporters. This is not a productive way to handle the public’s business and it does not make for reasonable discourse.
If Lafayette is to move forward, we must do so together. There may be a scenario in the future in which the library and its supporters agree that some funds earmarked for library improvements may be better redirected to other priorities. However, Mayor Robideaux has not articulated with any detail a justification for such action at this date. He has instead devoted his efforts to stirring confusion and levying unsupported accusations, all without communicating with the library board or administration, who could have clarified these issues for him.
In this release, the library board is presenting these facts to the public. They are from the public record. We will continue to provide additional details as a board and/or through our finance committee as appropriate.
Libraries are places where we meet to exchange ideas, learn and grow. We welcome a public discussion about this issue. But we urge everyone to stick to facts. We hope that Mayor Robideaux will revisit those facts and correct the public record. Based on correct facts, the Council can decide its best course of action.
Nora Stelly, President
Andrew Duhon, Vice President
Lafayette Public Library Board of Control
The Lafayette City-Parish Council is deferring their decision to re-dedicate $18 million in library funds for drainage.
Right now the library has a $41 million surplus. $15 million of that is going towards a new library in Scott, leaving the surplus at around $26 million.
When asked how much, if any of the library budget should be re-dedicated, library director Theresa Elberson said, “[This got brought up] without us knowing about it, no one had discussed this with us. It’s not budget time so we haven’t crunched numbers yet.”
Councilman Bruce Conque originally proposed an amendment to re-dedicate $10 million from the library so that they are left with a sufficient fund balance. But he instead withdrew the amendment to hear what Robideaux had to say about the library’s use of their funds.
The council was caught off guard and had lots of questions when Mayor-President Joel Robideaux said parish millages had been used for library construction projects while the library already had a dedicated millage for construction.
He said the reason the library surplus grew to $41 million is because the library used two millages for construction.
In 2002, Robideaux said the library issued a $40 million bond for the construction of the main library and improvements to the satellite locations. On the same ballot, the library also passed a millage for the construction and operation. He added, this is not
“The voters that are voting for the bond authorization of $40 million for the construction of libraries and the following ballot initiative, that says there’s a millage for the construction, maintenance and operation of the library, would think that the new millage was for construction and would be used to pay off the bond issue. But it wasn’t the case,” said Robideaux. “The bonds that were issued were what’s known as general obligation bonds of the parish. And those bonds were paid from a completely separate millage that’s labeled ‘roads, highways and bridges bonds.'”
The library director said Robideaux’s explanation was misleading. She said the bond issue was never a revenue source and the millage’s main purpose was to operate the new libraries being built.
“I think there were a lot of misconstrued facts thrown out. We had a bond issue and a construction millage both on the ballot at the same time. They both passed. The bond issue was to build libraries, the millage was to operate those libraries once it was built,” said Elberson. “We started collecting in 2003 and so we didn’t have our first library built until 2007. So that money was starting to make interest because it was in the bank already and we didn’t have operation yet.”
Some council members were simply shocked and decided to take more time on the issue.
“This is a last-minute surprise. Right now I can’t vote on anything until I get to the bottom of this,” said Councilman Jay Castille.
“I am embarrassed to admit that I was not fully aware of what the mayor-president just shared with us. It concerns me that I did not do enough due diligence and that he shared this information at the very last minute with a select few council members,” said Councilman Bruce Conque, pointing to the fact that Robideaux had briefly discussed the issue with a few members right before the meeting.
Ultimately, the council decided to re-visit the re-dedication issue in April.
If it passes, it would go before voters in either October or November.