There was little discussion when the city-parish council voted this week to schedule a parishwide election in April for a new $26 million bond propoal - to be paid back with existing tax revenue - for road and bridge maintenance in the rural, unincorporated part of Lafayette Parish. But now, the lone vote against the election is speaking out about reasons why he is opposed to the proposal. District 8 councilman Keith Patin calls Lafayette Consolidated Government “broken.”
“There are so many inefficiencies and inequities in the model we’re using,” he says.
“I don’t want to put a $26 million quart of oil into an engine that’s ready to blow up.”
Patin says he received more calls from constituents on the bond proposal than he has any other issue since he’s been on the council. He says city residents, which make up a majority of the parish’s tax base, should not be subsidizing the infrastructure for parish residents who pay lower property tax rates. He also points out that the parish has 25 “islands” of unincorporated areas, which are surrounded by the city limits but have yet to be annexed. Annexation requires a majority vote from the people in any given area.
Further complicating the picture has been aggressive expansion from the smaller parish towns like Broussard and Youngsville. As the towns have encroached on the parish’s sales tax base, the unincorporated areas have been left with not enough tax revenue to support their needs.“They’ve expanded to the point where the dynamics have changed,” Patin says. “Consolidated Governement is allowing the smaller municipalities to feather their own nest at the detriment of the parish and the people in the city of Lafayette end up having to pick up the tab. That’s wrong.”
City-Parish President Joey Durel takes a different view on the issue. “To be overly parochial is, in my opinion, being very short sighted,” he says. “We can’t deny the moral obligation that we have as a parish to take care of our parish.” Durel points out that the smaller municipalities complain they don’t get enough of their parish property taxes back, and residents in the unincorporated areas argue that the city keeps all the sales tax money they spend in Lafayette. “The arguments go both ways,” Durel says.
Durel adds that this issue is not one that was brought on by consolidation and that the municipalities have always subsidizied the rural, unincorporated areas. Prior to the 1996 merging of Lafayette city and parish government, all parishwide property taxes went to parish government, which used the majority of those funds in the unincorporated areas, leaving the cities and towns to fund their own projects with municipal taxes.