If you believe “consolidated” government is fine how it is, keep your head in the sand. If you’re willing to accept City-Parish President Joey Durel’s assertion that the city of Lafayette is shouldering a disproportionate burden, look no further than Thursday’s budget hearing concerning LCG’s Parks & Recreation Department.
As The Advocate reports today, Parks & Rec Director Gerald Boudreaux told the City-Parish Council that his department cannot continue to provide the current level of service on its current budget, much less on the 13.6 percent cut proposed in Durel’s 2012-2013 fiscal year budget, prompting Boudreaux to mention the unmentionable: increasing the property tax that funds Parks & Rec:
“This is not for a new golf course or a new recreation center; this is to maintain what we have today,” Parks and Recreation Director Gerald Boudreaux said Thursday. “If we do not have additional funds ... some of these (recreation) programs will have to be eliminated.”
Boudreaux said the Recreation Advisory Commission has unanimously endorsed asking city voters to increase the property tax that funds the department, now at 1.92 mills.
The recreation tax was approved in the 1960s and has remained unchanged, even as the number of parks and recreation centers has more than tripled, Boudreaux said.
The City-Parish Council would have to approve bringing the tax issue to voters; no date has been set as to when the measure might be considered.
Here’s the rub, folks: the public parks, ball fields, basketball and tennis courts and recreation centers operated and maintained by Parks & Rec are funded solely by a city property tax. Although residents across the parish use these facilities, and just like city residents leave behind trash and contribute to the general wear and tear that requires routine maintenance, the city taxpayers underwrite everything. What’s more, of the 39 parks, 10 rec centers and three public golf courses under Parks & Rec’s operations, eight of them are outside the city limits.
According the Parks & Rec page at LCG’s website, those outside-the-city parks include Judice Park, which offers tennis courts, soccer fields, lighted ball fields, batting cages, a jogging path, picnic areas, restrooms, a playground and other amenities. Located in the district of Tea Party-backed council Chairman Jared Bellard, Judice Park is used almost exclusively by residents in rural west Lafayette Parish, yet taxpayers in the city of Lafayette pick up the tab for their operations and maintenance.
This is of course egregious, an outgrowth of Lafayette city voters making the terrible mistake (I was one of them!) of voting overwhelmingly in the early 1990s to consolidate city and parish governments, allowing in the same stroke the five smaller municipalities to opt out of consolidated government yet still get an electoral voice in the representation on the City-Parish Council.
And we want to know what you think. Would you be willing to pay more in property taxes to keep Lafayette’s recreational offerings at their current level? Take our poll located to the right of this story.
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