On Thursday, November 1st, the first day of the LCG fiscal year, a special meeting was called to discuss the $770,000 budget shortfall created when the council decided not to sell the Buchanan Garage to itself. It’s certainly possible that this entire exercise has been contrived to encourage voters to support a council divorce, which appears on the December 8th ballot.
All that aside, some new information came to light at the council meeting. Sales tax collections are up, so the new shortfall number is $500,000. The solution? Sell off assets for one-time money, of course! That puts the Buchanan garage back on the auction block.
The Mayor/President, fresh from admissions that secret meetings with a single company may have created unintended consequences, has been having secret meetings about a potential joint venture for the garage. No one will say with whom, and there’s no plan, but the council went ahead and adjusted the budget for a pre-approved, no-bid price of $500,000. City/Parish CFO, Lorrie Toups, said it was for “a transaction to be defined later.”
Budget shortfall is less than CREATE’s budget
Now might be a good time to remember that while the council is selling off long-term assets to fix a one-time $500,000 budget emergency, their CREATE initiative is spending $557,000 on culture and the arts.
As we’ve mentioned previously, the parish could repair their Buchanan garage asset using only a fraction of the $7.8 million courthouse complex surplus. There would probably even be enough left over to remodel the criminal courtrooms, which could desperately use it.
Parish employee pay raises were entirely funded by cutting the JDC
Judges Charlie Fitzgerald, David Blanchet, Marilyn Castle, and Jules Edwards from the 15th Judicial District Court came to the budget meeting to ask the council to extend a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for court employees.
Judge Fitzgerald said that the court was already operating under a $138,000 cut when the council decided to issue a 2% cost of living adjustment to all parish employees except those who work at the court. Adding insult to injury, Judge Fitzgerald said that the other parish employee raises were paid for with a $96,000 mid-year budget cut to the 15th Judicial District Court. Judge Castle added that court employees were asking, “Why are they picking on us again?” Not only did they not receive the same 2% raise that all the other parish employees received, but their budget was cut to pay for it and now they don’t even have a place to park!
Could all of these maneuverings be intended to encourage support for Tuesday’s district court tax? Remember, if it passes, Lafayette would be the only parish in the entire state of Louisiana that would fund it’s court system with a dedicated tax.