In spite of a few parsimonious partisans, Lafayette residents recognize that government revenue — yes, taxes — is necessary for the greater good.
Friday, Sept. 7, 2012
Written by Walter Pierce
A few weeks ago I posted a poll at theind.com asking readers if they would be willing to pay more in property taxes to keep recreational opportunities maintained by Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Parks & Rec Department at their current level, or if these “lean fiscal times” made recreation an unnecessary expense. More than 1,500 of you responded with a resounding yes — nearly 88 percent in favor of paying more versus 12 percent.
The poll grew out of recent news that the property tax millage paid only by city of Lafayette residents has remained unchanged for 50 years, although the city has more than quintupled the number of parks, recreation centers, ball fields, tennis courts and golf courses our Parks & Rec department must maintain. There are even eight parks outside the city of Lafayette bankrolled by city tax dollars.
The Parks & Rec situation underscores what those of us dissatisfied with the current state of consolidation believe: the city of Lafayette shoulders a disproportionate burden for operating “consolidated” government — more than 80 percent, even though the city of Lafayette comprises just about 53 percent of the total parish population.
Taxes are indeed inevitable, but without question city of Lafayette taxpayers are bearing the brunt for operating LCG. Is this as it should be?
The city of Lafayette is the economic engine not only of the parish but of the Acadiana region. Companies locate in Acadia, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes because of the cheaper cost of doing business there and their proximity to Lafayette and its medical infrastructure, its university, its Cajundome concerts, movie theaters, shopping options and festivals. The city of Lafayette makes Youngsville and Broussard, Scott and Carenco, desirable places to live — bedroom communities close to the action but removed enough for a small-town feel. Unanchored by an industrial, commercial and cultural lodestone like Lafayette, these smaller municipalities would be little more than Glenmora or Robeline, Dry Prong or Oretta — dots on the Louisiana map where it’s church on Sunday and work the rest of the week. And satellite TV. Lots of satellite TV.
The things that make Lafayette a great place to live — the university and other higher-ed institutions, the Cajundome and Heymann Performing Arts Center, the health care infrastructure, Parc International, Festival International de Louisiane — didn’t just happen organically. They were nurtured, encouraged through taxpayer-funded infrastructure or simply invented out of whole cloth by the taxpaying citizens of Lafayette. We city folk have long come together in a spirit of “we can do this together.” Taxes are one way we do this. Together.
The Horse Farm, or rather what it will be in a few years, is another example of this collective spirit. It is not a garish commercial development thanks to a shared awareness among public enterprises — UL (cajoled and shamed, initially, by some fine investigative reporting by this newspaper, thank you very much) and LCG — and residents who recognize that quality of life is greater than a smooth transit to a shopping center. Yet there are those who stand in opposition to this spirit, who scoff at it and refuse to recognize that community and communal share more than an etymological relationship.
One reader characterized me as a communist for a recent column in which I endorsed keeping property tax levels the same as they were last year: “I do believe that you enjoy paying taxes. I also think you would enjoy seeing everybody wearing grey jumpsuits and calling each other comrade while they report their progress to the collective.”
Wait. Supporting the concept that government revenue should keep pace with inflation, allowing government to maintain services — paving roads, paying police and firefighters, grooming our baseball and soccer fields, giving a little, with an emphasis on little, to ensure our cultural economy thrives — is tantamount to communism?
I believe Independent readers, no matter which side of the political middle they fall, are like the vast majority of people in Lafayette and understand that we’re all in this together, that government is us; LCG is our neighbors, our moms and dads, brothers, sisters and cousins. It’s a primary means for getting good things done. That Parks & Rec poll backs that up.
The inequity of city versus non-city taxes funding LCG needs to be corrected, but if the value of your home went up over the last four years and your property tax bill went up with it, don’t bitch about the government; go enjoy a public park.
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