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!
Amid mounting pressure from deep-pocketed business interests, an ordinance that would have phased out a 2 percent rebate merchants in the city and unincorporated Lafayette Parish receive for collecting sales taxes has been pulled.
From jewelry to home goods, deals abound
Forgiving shapes for NOLA Bowl
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, December 12, 2013:
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The New Orleans architect behind the 1984 World’s Fair also left his mark on Lafayette.
Laid back vibe just right for NOLA Bowl
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
Week long specials and a ribbon cutting celebration held in Parc Lafayette
Fort Worth company's new facility at Lafayette Regional Airport will build helicopters primarily for the export market.
Could River Ranch restaurant be the next star?
Move over Hooters — there’s a new breastaurant coming to town.
Hashtag, retweet, like, share and do whatever else it takes to get in good today with the jolly man in red.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.