After years of standing on the sidelines and watching our local government put new taxes on the ballot, one election after another, a group of concerned citizens decided it was time for local taxpayers to hear a different narrative – one they knew to be true but weren’t hearing from the local government or the local media.
Our group began looking into the Lafayette Parish School tax, which appeared on the April ballot in 2017. We helped you learn much about what was going on inside the school system, including an outrageous cost-per-student and their total spending nearly doubling in just ten years. The key takeaway, though, was that many of the schools in our area were underutilized. Why would we need to spend $200 million on new school infrastructure when so many permanent infrastructure classrooms we already had available sat empty?
The news media was of little help getting the information out, so our volunteers had to self-publish our findings directly to the local population with the help of some local, private donations.
The voters agreed with our assessment. Then, a September School Board meeting, Board President Dawn Morris had the same realization and said, “It’s just crazy that we put all of those commercials on TV about kids running from the temporary buildings in the rain. Then, when I look at the data, well, we’re sending those kids to those schools voluntarily — it’s not even their zoned school.”
The result of our most recent efforts returned over three million dollars a year to the local economy. By sharing with locals the Library system’s spending versus tax collection and their very high surplus, they were convinced the library would continue to be fully funded even with the loss of one of their three property taxes. The two other ad valorem property tax millages (4.91) continue to provide the library with more money than drainage (3.34) and more than road and bridge maintenance (4.17). Soon after the voters decided to not renew the third tax, the Library decided to purchase a brand new bookmobile, costing nearly $300,000.
As our research developed, we found the local media was even less willing to share it than they were in the discussion on taxes leading up to the previous April’s tax election. Again, our volunteers created and self-published the information directly to the public.
As we move into the future, we plan to continue researching ways for our local government to run leaner. As taxes make their way to the ballot, we plan to do the hard research to determine if they are necessary and inform local residents of our findings.
The next two tax increase proposals come from Lafayette Consolidated Government. They include the 15th Judicial District Court (2 mills, or $4.6 million a year in new taxes) and the Parish Jail (3 mills, or $6.7 million in new taxes on top of the $4.7 million just approved by voters in November). If you’d like to help contribute to our efforts to put out the other side of the story, let us know by volunteering or donating.