I had gone into the meeting — virtually, actually, because I watched it online — believing that private enterprise shouldn’t be getting a cut of public dollars. Repealing the rebate wouldn’t increase taxes, but it would’ve redirected about $1.5 million more in revenue annually toward roads, bridges, schools and really sacrilegious transgender dance productions. I don’t use the roads and bridges much, but I loves me some dancing divas.
The business owners who also addressed the council made a compelling case: the rebate isn’t a reward for collecting and turning over the taxes — although it was most certainly a carrot dangled before merchants 50 years ago when the city sales tax was instituted — it’s compensation for the cost to the businesses of providing a service to government, which is subcontracting the collection of sales taxes to local businesses. And the shopkeepers have no say in the matter. They are conscripted by law.
So, as a government, we will leave that $1.5 million off the table. The ordinance failed, and I can’t condemn the council’s vote.
But the issue was illustrative of a bigger, recurring concern in Lafayette (and the genesis of the ordinance): taxes and revenue, or a lack thereof. And before I get a head of steam on this mother, please don’t tell me we’re taxed enough already. Taxes in Lafayette Parish are relatively low compared to other parishes of our population and affluence. Just look at the property tax for schools in St. Tammany Parish (much higher) then compare their schools to ours (much better).
Arguably the biggest money pit in terms of non-essential government services are our municipal golf courses, and with an LCG budget in the $600 million range even the golf courses are a drop in the proverbial bucket. But they’re money losers maintained by the city of Lafayette. (And is it any coincidence that our city leaders over the decades have generally been middle- and upper middle class white dudes, the same demographic that really digs golf?)
Lafayette, relative to other parishes in Louisiana, is geographically small and densely packed. It’s an urban parish, and maintaining our infrastructure and providing recreational opportunities that enhance quality of life while ameliorating the stress on civic institutions impacted by the very urban nature of the parish (read: poverty) costs a lot of money.
Youngsville is forward thinking in this respect. Voters there approved in 2011 a 1-cent sales tax to build a sports/recreational complex, which is now going up in a former cane field and will be open by early next year. Consultants have told city leaders the facility could bring 1 million visitors annually to Youngsville in the future. In response the council approved an ordinance that will put a 4-cent hotel occupancy tax before voters this fall, and Youngsville doesn’t even have a hotel or motel right now. But it no doubt will once the tax-funded sports complex is firing on all pistons. Revenue will be necessary to accommodate growth.
The recently resolved fracas between Lafayette and Broussard over the latter’s annexation lawsuit also speaks to this issue.
Annexations are only about territory insofar as that territory generates revenue via sales and property taxes. No one ever annexed a wasteland.
But here’s where it gets dicey for us as a “consolidated, all-in-this-together” parish: Every time Broussard or Youngsville or Lafayette or any other municipality annexes an area with businesses, it is siphoning sales taxes away from parish government. Remember that Lafayette is “consolidated” more or less in name only. Lafayette city government and Lafayette Parish government operate on separate books and separate revenue streams. Yet it is parish taxes that fund the sheriff’s office, the jail, the parish courthouse and libraries, etc., and as the municipalities race to gobble up the unincorporated parish, funding for those very vital enterprises shrinks.
Lafayette Parish, as a governmental entity, is withering on the vine and eventually, if we don’t do something about it, it’s going to bite us on our collective ass. Yeah, I’m talking to y’all in Carencro, Duson and Scott, too. When the jail doesn’t have room for your bad boys, whatcha gonna do?
We’ll see what happens in the fall when Youngsville voters decide on that hotel occupancy tax. The tea party folks will oppose it vigorously, and I couldn’t disagree with them more.
What a relief!
Rachel Hector returns home to cultivate a generation of yoga instructors.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students' college costs.
It is distinctly possible control of the U.S. Senate will hinge on Louisiana, which is why, during the last several months, outside groups have made this the most expensive election in Louisiana history.
Coton de tulear joins Westminster; Paypal splitting from Ebay; first US Ebola diagnosis and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 1, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
A constellation of South Louisiana musical stars descends on Parc Sans Souci to honor an ailing David Egan.
INDStyle Awards 2014 was one for the books; the American Cancer Society took over The Victorian's big tent; and the battle of the sexes was alive and well for Walk a Runway's Christmas fundraiser.
The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra teams up with choreographer Clare Cook for a modern take on a Stravinsky classic.
Local food pantries begin seasonal drives
A girl's best fashion friend
Stage 4 vet takes on cancer and reminds us all what it really means to get involved.
Creative living flourishes at Downtown’s artist hub
Four bedroom cottage or four bedroom traditional
Bold looks for fall define INDStyle Awards 2014
Statement pieces for the season
The gents venture out
Project Front Yard has been launched to help us change our image and our habits.
Alleged victim is a Navy vet with brain trauma resulting from a car accident three decades ago.
Is Mary fading as Vitter solidifies his lock on the fourth floor?
Richard Buswell was sentenced Tuesday to more than 10 years in prison for his role in an investment scheme that defrauded his clients of more than $6 million.
The Latin Music Festival returns to Parc International this Saturday, Oct. 4, from noon to 10 p.m.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has renegotiated contracts for six LSU hospital privatization deals, hoping to reach a compromise with federal health officials that will keep Medicaid dollars flowing to the privatized patient services.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.