[Update, 3:35 p.m. Tuesday: Council Chairman Jared Bellard has confirmed the sales tax resolution will be pulled from the agenda.]
A resolution on the agenda for Tuesday night’s City-Parish Council meeting calling for an April city-wide vote on a new sales tax to fund public safety will likely not be addressed tonight. Councilman Jay Castille, who sponsored the resolution when it was originally brought before the council in late January, tells The Ind the council no longer has time to undertake the steps necessary for the election date specified in the resolution. The resolution was tabled for 30 days on Jan. 24.
“This current resolution has dates in it for an April 21 election, so it really doesn’t serve any purpose to discuss it,” Castille says. “There’s not enough time to go through the state bond commission and get that approved.”
Castille adds that the resolution will eventually come back before the council and target a November election for the sales tax, assuming the council passes the resolution and lets city voters decide whether to take on the new tax. We have a call and email in to council Chairman Jared Bellard to confirm the status of the resolution. Council Clerk Norma Dugas says she’s waiting to hear about the resolution as well.
Here’s a review of the tax and what it’s intended to address, taken from an earlier report at theind.com:
The half-cent sales tax would raise the city of Lafayette sales tax to 8.5 percent. The additional half cent collected on every dollar spent on retail purchases would be directed to the police and fire departments.
Currently in Lafayette, 5 mills of the overall property tax burden is devoted to public safety and generates about $6 million annually, but that 5-mill public-safety tax will expire after property taxes are collected this year. The half-cent sales tax would, according to projections, generate a little more than $16 million annually, representing a $10 million increase in public safety funding. Moreover, the new revenue would be generated by everyone who makes retail purchases in the city of Lafayette as opposed to only property owners in the city who are currently generating the funding. Food and prescription drugs, which are currently exempt from the state sales tax, would also be exempt from the proposed city sales tax.
The administration and public safety officials have justified the tax as a needed means of meeting increased operating expenses and infrastructure needs. According to the resolution before the council Tuesday, if the Lafayette Fire Department is unable to build two new fire stations — LCG doesn’t currently have the funds to build new stations — it runs the risk of having its fire rating lowered, which would likely lead to “a significant increase in insurance costs for residents and businesses” in the city.