City-Parish President Joey Durel Monday announced a proposed change to the way Lafayette Consolidated Government funds nonprofit agencies in the parish. Heretofore, more than two dozen agencies — social service providers like Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as cultural agencies such as Festival International — shared a roughly $453,000 pot of money, more than 60 percent of which went to social service agencies.
Under the new system, money used to fund the non-governmental agencies through a competitive application process would come from franchise fees paid to LCG by Cox Communications and Lafayette Utilities System’s Fiber service. Currently, those entities generate about $840,000 in franchise fees annually, although Durel says he wants the funding to remain “status quo” — $450,000, as in years past — at the outset.
LCG’s Community Development Department headed by Ben Berthelot will appoint a 5-person panel to award the social service funding, according to Durel’s plan, with a $25,000 cap for each agency receiving funding. The Acadiana Center for the Arts, also using a panel, will award the arts funding. Cultural providers will face a $17,500 cap — a $10,000 cap for operational funding and a $7,500 cap for programming. Because the AcA, which opens its theater expansion this fall and whose operating costs in its city-owned facility downtown will consequently rise considerably, would administer the funding on behalf of LCG, it will not be eligible for funding through this new mechanism. Durel and AcA Executive Director Gerd Wuestemann say a separate budget mechanism for funding the AcA is being ironed out. Also, groups like Festival International and the Mardi Gras associations, which historically have received considerably more than the $17,500 they will be eligible for under the new funding system, will likely get separate line items in the budget the Durel administration will hand to the council at the end of July.
“We’ve had this discussion about nonprofits since I’ve been in office,” Durel said at a Monday press conference at City Hall. “If you remember, my first couple of years in office I zeroed them out. And my biggest issue was always that it was tax dollars that had never been voted on by the people of Lafayette to spend on agencies external to the government.”
There has traditionally been enough support on the council to fund NGOs that the agencies have received the money each year despite Durel’s fiscal misgivings. LCG’s chief executive has since tempered his tone, saying he supports funding for cultural agencies which show a return on the investment. But funding social service agencies in particular has become a bone of contention on the council, with some more fiscally conservative members voting to get LCG out of the business of funding all NGOs.
Durel hopes the new funding mechanism will resolve the issue. “We’ve struggled with it, and we’ve gotten the message from the council and many people in the community that they want to see us continue to fund nonprofits, the external agencies, but each year it seemed to be the same battle. So, we’ve been talking about what can we do to change the process, to start changing the process.”
It’s unclear whether the City-Parish Council will know which agencies have been selected by the two panels to receive funding this year by the time it votes on whether to approve the new funding mechanism as part of the budget process. Social service and arts/culture agencies can pick up applications at City Hall beginning Wednesday, June 9. Those applications must be returned by June 30, at which time the panels at Community Development and the AcA will begin the review process.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.