There really is a lot going on right now
Even someone that doesn’t normally pay attention to politics can sense that there’s an unprecedented level of busyness in local government. In years past, we’ve seen only one big tax issue come up maybe once a year. However, In the last year and a half, aside from a few innocuous renewals, we’ve seen three big tax issues come up: the school tax, the CREATE tax, and the library tax. Of those three relatively controversial issues, only one was a new tax: the school sales tax.
Thinking back on these three taxes can help us understand the climate of distrust that’s developing in local politics.
- The Lafayette School Board said schools were running out of space. They called for new school construction to solve the problem. We showed you in the documents (and later Board President, Dawn Morris, agreed) that Lafayette Parish actually has plenty of unused infrastructure. Several school buildings were sitting half empty while others were overcrowded. The problem wasn’t a need to build more, but a resistance to changing the board’s policies to use their resources more efficiently.
- While technically a new tax, the CREATE tax was part of a “you won’t pay any extra” rededication effort that passed only because it held drainage hostage. The tax created a brand new department in the PARISH (not the city). That’s significant because “the Parish is broke” seems to be the never-ending mantra of the Council. The people begrudgingly voted for CREATE to get some help with drainage, but they were none too happy about it.
- The library tax was a tax renewal and tax renewals never fail. However, when a government agency has three taxes and a $42 million surplus, asking for more money is generally a bad idea.
As we examine these three as a whole, one can observe a growing climate of distrust between the tax payers and the tax collectors. Every six months brought a new tax election. Each tax election was effectively a large withdrawal from the taxpayers’ emotional bank accounts. It’s become a climate of distrust that is evidenced by an unprecedented number of public records requests. These requests are so numerous that they’re overwhelming local bureaucrats and making it difficult for them to keep up with regular work.
Looking at $40 MILLION in new taxes
The upcoming elections are presenting us with not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR new taxes, one very significant tax change, and a major transformation of parish governance.
- The new Parish Jail Tax, worth $6.7 million per year – November.
- The new 15th Judicial District Court tax, worth $4.6 million per year – November.
- The Sheriff’s 1/2 cent sales tax, worth $25 million per year. Twenty-five million! – December.
- The divorce of the City/Parish council – December.
- The new Fire District tax worth $4 million per year – December.
The arithmetic on these taxes boggles the mind: $40 million in NEW ANNUAL TAXES! If history is any indicator, the above estimates are low. Looking back to November, the CREATE tax proponents said it was worth only $500,000 per year. Ten months later, we find out it’s $557,854. That’s an 11.6% increase over original estimates and it hasn’t even been collected yet!
Not all issues are on the ballot
Add to these taxes a deal to sell or manage LUS, which public documents suggest will not require a vote of the people. A term of that deal (separating LUS Fiber from LUS) seems to have also slipped into the paperwork to separate the City/Parish council, which was supposed to only include what was necessary to accommodate a council split. If you’d like to read that language for yourself, we highlighted the pertinent part on page six in the minutes of the August 7th, 2018, meeting. Most recently, the drama from LCG endorsing a Drag Queen for toddlers event has created an even lower level of trust. Certainly, it can be said that all of this noise is not adding to the taxpayer’s confidence in local government.