In what could be considered of symbolic significance only, the Lafayette City-Parish Council Tuesday will vote on an introductory ordinance that would bar the council from future votes on establishing tax increment financing, or TIF, districts. The ordinance, sponsored by tea party-friendly Councilmen William Theriot and Jared Bellard, would prohibit the council from considering or placing on its agenda “any matter that includes a proposal to levy property taxes in excess of what the constitution authorizes to be levied without a vote of the people and all proposals to renew, levy a new or increase an existing sales and use tax unless such proposal is submitted to the voters for approval in accordance with the election laws of the state ...”
The ordinance is a response to the recent controversy over developer Glenn Stewart’s swanky Parc Lafayette project for which an ordinance proposing a TIF to bankroll the project was later pulled following intense opposition mainly from the Tea Party of Lafayette. Theriot and Bellard courted TPL members at a recent forum, receiving hearty applause when they announced the anti-TIF ordinance.
However, Mike Hebert, chief counsel for Lafayette Consolidated Government, doubts the ordinance could meet legal muster because runs counter to state law, which grants municipalities the right to create TIF districts in which additional taxes are levied without a public vote. Currently, the Lafayette Home Rule Charter includes a clause preventing the levying of a tax without a vote of the people — in effect, local law and state law are in opposition.
Hebert crafted the ordinance at Theriot’s request, but Hebert also includes a caveat in his confirmation letter to the councilman: “I believe the only mechanism available to enforce this kind of prohibition would be to adopt it as a council policy,” Hebert writes. “I do not believe that the council could pass a local ordinance generally declaring any tax increase without a vote of the people to be illegal, for that is a matter that would likely be considered to be preempted by state law.”
A TIF district was used to fund the infrastructure at the Target-anchored shopping center on Louisiana Avenue at Interstate 10. An additional penny in sales tax is charged by merchants at the shopping center; that additional revenue funds the infrastructure. The state TIF law was created to help cities jump start development in blighted or under-served areas. Stewart’s Parc Lafayette TIF created such a stir in large part because it would have helped the developer fund a high-end shopping center in the most commercially desirable area of Lafayette.
A plan last year floated by the Durel administration to create TIF districts along Ambassador Caffery and elsewhere on the south side of Lafayette was also abandoned.