The City-Parish Council on Tuesday passed a resolution clearing the way for city of Lafayette voters to decide next April whether to substantially increase the property tax devoted to the Parks & Recreation Department. If approved on April 6, 2013, the millage will more than triple from the current 1.92 mills — a rate set in the 1960s — to 7 mills, 5 of which will be earmarked for operations and maintenance at existing facilities; the other 2 would be for construction of new facilities and improvements to existing facilities.

In one of the many inequities built into “consolidated” government, only city of Lafayette property owners pay for the upkeep and new construction of the dozens of public parks, ball courts, playing fields, golf course and recreation centers, although residents across the parish use these facilities. The city has more than quintupled the number of these public facilities since the early 1960s, even as the property tax has remained the same. The net effect, as Parks & Recreation Director Gerald Boudreaux pointed out to the council a few weeks ago, has been to starve the department of revenue.

The proposed millage increase is expected to generate about $8.5 million annually. Currently the department is subsidized by the general fund to the tune of about $4 million annually, according to Boudreaux. The department will require a $6 million subsidy next year to operate at its roughly $12 million budget.

The council voted 5-3 in favor of the resolution, with Councilmen Jared Bellard, Don Bertrand, Kenneth Boudreaux, Jay Castille and Brandon Shelvin voting in favor; Councilmen Andy Naquin, Keith Patin and William Theriot voted against it. A handful of residents also spoke out against the resolution.

A survey posted at theind.com late last summer found a resounding majority of readers, more than 80 percent, willing to pay higher property taxes to fund the Parks & Recreation Department.

You can watch last night’s council meeting online here.

The Advocate’s Richard Burgess also has a good breakdown of the issue here.

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