Tax Increment Financing districts have become a blazing topic in Lafayette in recent months, sparking heated debates over a now defunct plan to fund Parc Lafayette with additional site-specific sales taxes — and an ordinance that if approved at tonight’s City-Parish Council meeting will effectively block the creation of any new taxing districts without first heading to a ballot for voters to decide.
City-Parish councilmen Jared Bellard and William Theriot are behind the ordinance to adopt the new “council policy” — it has to be named as such because the council cannot override state laws that allow for TIF districts without a public vote — which if passed would pacify the Tea Party of Lafayette — and potentially stifle development in areas that need an economic boost.
TIFs have been used for years across the state and in north Lafayette for the shopping center along Louisiana Avenue at I-10. The additional penny sales tax shoppers pay at the shopping center is used to fund the infrastructure that was needed for the site to come to fruition.
City-Parish President Joey Durel has long argued that economic development districts, like Parc Lafayette would have been, have no residents living within the boundaries, so the additional sales taxes are imposed only on those who choose to pay them by shopping there.
But the TEA Party opposition to Parc Lafayette stems from the notion that a new taxing district would have helped to fund a chic retail center and a luxury hotel in the most commercially appealing part of town instead of aiding in the development of blighted and under-served areas.
As Bellard and Theriot rally support for their no new tax measure, the debate over TIFs and how the public gauges its support for them is a hot-button issue erupting beyond the confines of Lafayette.
In Baton Rouge, TIFs have been used to build two separate hotels, one at the “abandoned eyesore” that once housed Capitol House downtown and the other to turn The Hotel King into the Hotel Indigo, according to The Baton Rouge Business Report. The Metro Council also recently approved a third taxing district to help fund a 137-room, downtown Hampton Inn & Suites, a move that, much like Parc Lafayette, faced opposition from the city’s hotel and lodging lobby:
The typical case for public support of private projects is that sometimes a boost is needed to jump-start a worthy project. If the project has a public benefit, like revitalizing a downtrodden area of the city, and spurs further private development, then the cost to taxpayers is worthwhile. But if it’s feasible without public help, or does little for the overall economy while poaching from existing businesses, that argument falls apart.
There certainly is a precedent, but is there ever a limit? Should every new hotel receive a boost from taxpayers?
In Iberia Parish, the Iberia Parish Council recently approved additional sales taxes for a 10-acre TIF that will help to fund a private retail center being developed by local businessman Chris Jordan. The Daily Iberian reports that parish officials took heat from concerned residents during public meetings, another striking similarity to Lafayette’s tiff over TIFs:
Iberia resident Richard Boutte, a regular attendee of council meetings ... told the council he did not think it was proper to use taxpayer money to bankroll private developers.
Tea Party member and parish resident Ruben LeBlanc ... challenged the legality of TIFs and pointed to what he claimed was a worst case scenario, the state of California, which LeBlanc said now boasts more than 400 TIFs.
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.