Lafayette Mayor Josh Guillory sees more cuts coming, wants more federal aid for businesses

William Taylor Potter
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Lafayette Consolidated Government is facing a "fiscal emergency," Mayor-President Josh Guillory said Tuesday, with money saved from layoffs only "a drop in the bucket" to cover millions lost in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Guillory announced Friday he was laying off 101 government employees, effective June 5. The layoffs are expected to save more than $400,000 for the current fiscal year, Guillory confirmed Tuesday.

"I join our community in our thoughts and our prayers and our well wishes for these hard-working LCG employees that gave a lot to this government and this community," Guillory said.

Mayor President Josh Guillory speaking at press conference at City Hall in Lafayette, LA. Wednesday, May 20, 2020.

The city of Lafayette was already facing a budget deficit of $18 million when the budget was passed, but COVID-19 and the oil and gas slump have added an additional $10 million shortfall.

Instead of using state money to cover losses in revenue to the city and parish, Guillory said Tuesday he is urging lawmakers to give that money to local businesses.

In a letter to Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, Guillory asked lawmakers to change plans that would allow the $1.8 billion allocated to Louisiana as federal coronavirus relief to include aid for small businesses.

More:Lafayette councils approve Guillory’s $1 million business grant plan

The letter came after the city and parish councils approved Guillory's plan to provide $1 million in grants to small businesses that have not been able to secure federal aid. Social and nonprofit groups had asked for some of that money to cover costs of additional COVID-19 testing and help for people who lost income.

"Providing money to businesses in parishes like mine to support the robust return of our economy will yield benefits to the people of Louisiana for weeks, months and years to come," Guillory wrote. 

More:Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory announces 101 LCG layoffs | Video

Guillory said the city lost $1 million in sales tax revenue in March alone, and he said using the federal relief money for businesses instead of local governments will have a greater impact than giving the money directly to local governments.

"Keeping these businesses going is critical to restarting our economy," Guillory said. "The $1 million we are devoting to small business is simply not enough to meet demand.

"Money for government helps for one year, one budget cycle, maybe. Money to get businesses back up and running helps for the first year, and year two, year three, and so on."

Guillory said while the $400,000 in savings from layoffs of public employees won't be enough to make up for lost revenue, he anticipates the layoffs will save more money over time.

"We do anticipate higher savings in the future," he said.

More:Lafayette Consolidated Government will lay off 101, saving $403,000

The mayor-president said he will continue to look at departments and find areas to cut spending. Guillory said it begins with determining what the government's "essential functions" should be.

Last week's layoffs affect 23 full-time workers and 78 part-time workers who serve LCG’s Acadiana Nature Station, the Science Museum, its three senior centers and the Heymann Performing Arts Center. Six employees are being retained to maintain the security of those facilities while they are closed or operating at reduced capacity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Guillory indicated during the press conference that LCG may bring back some of the workforce if the funding situation improves for Nov. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

"If the funding situation changes, and we can address and bring these jobs and services back November first, that's what we'll do," Guillory said. "I don't to paint false hopes. I don't want to create false hopes of a picture that's no there. We are in a very serious situation fiscally."