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 22 This post was written the day after the second line shooting in NOLA, by Brentin Mock. Mock is a friend of Deb "Big Red" Cotton, a blogger who was shot in the back and was seriously injured. It is a raw, emotional piece of writing, something the writer obviously felt he needed to get off his chest. But it raises questions that can't be easily dismissed, and might give some insight into where the source of these events truly is.
MAY 22 In this Baton Rouge Business Report post, Rolfe McCollister considers the privatization of bus service in Baton Rouge. After decades of under-funding, it is a mess, and although a tax (partially) passed last year, improvement hasn't happened yet. McCollister apparently feels it is time to let private business get in on the transit business.
MAY 22 This post on Bayou Buzz by Jeff Crouere urges the defeat of a bill that would grant modest pay increases over the next several years to the state's judges and clerks of court. The state is in no position to fund pay hikes, Crouere argues, with the pay increases costing a total of $9 million over several years. It sends the wrong message to the (proverbial) hard-working people of Louisiana, he says.
MAY 22 The Advocate reports here that State Treasurer John Kennedy is complaining about a meeting of the corporation that oversees the state's tobacco settlement. The Governor wanted it restructured, and he has some support, but not a lot. The corporation agreed with his plan, but Kennedy didn't, and it appears that the meeting was noticed in a manner completely different than that of all previous meetings. Kennedy's given to hyperbole, but in this case the fish don't smell too fresh.
MAY 22 In this Advocate story, Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout says the recent federal indictment of a strip club owner is all wrong. The indictment alleges that drugs and prostitution went on with impunity because club staff made arrangements with "local" police. Stout says it never happened, and while his cops do work security in the parking lot, they're not allowed inside.
MAY 22 This amusing post in DIG Baton Rouge recounts an ad that ran on Craig's List recently; the advertiser was seeking tenants for a Beauregard Town house. He knew his market, and wrote an ad that the most ironical hipster couldn't resist. Apparently, he really did know his market, because the ad worked like a charm.
MAY 22 In this post in The Lens, Mark Moseley comments on the rhetoric Gov. Jindal employed in trying to save his tax "reform" package. One interesting point concerns Jindal's use of his brother, Nikesh, in a little story. Nikesh left Louisiana because of his inability to get a decent job, the story goes, but the story won't hold water: Nikesh lives in DC, which has an income tax level comparable to Louisiana, Moseley says. If income taxes caused the dismal situation, it should exist in DC too. Right?
MAY 22 This post by columnist John Maginnis traces the trajectory of the bill that would fund construction at community and technical colleges -- and bypass the Board of Regents and traditional higher ed funding mechanisms. Sure, it will bust the legislature's self-imposed debt limit, but some leges feel that there's more need (because there is more growth) in the community and technical college area than in the university area, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
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.