Mayor-President Josh Guillory's first budget comes in busy council meetings Tuesday
After announcing a second wave of 37 layoffs at Lafayette Consolidated Government Friday, Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory will present his first annual budget Tuesday during a busy meeting of Lafayette’s city and parish councils.
Guillory, a Republican, ran on a promise of not raising taxes to solve Lafayette Consolidated Government's fiscal woes, and Tuesday's budget for next year will give the broadest view yet on the new mayor-president's priorities.
Already, Guillory has laid off more than 130 full- and part-time employees between LCG's Community Development and Parks and Recreation departments.
Guillory also announced the closure of four of the local government's 10 recreations centers effective starting November to further cut city spending, though it is unclear how much the closures and layoffs announced Friday will save.
The city of Lafayette’s annual spending was $18 million more than its revenues when Guillory took office in January, largely from pay raises for first responders and government employees that Guillory supported while campaigning for office.
That deficit was compounded by an expected $10 million shortfall in tax revenue that Guillory announced this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which would have the city spending $28 million of its $50 million cash reserve just on normal operations.
Guillory has made several moves to cut into the city’s current year deficit, but so far his plans for next year’s budget, which take effect in November, have been largely private.
But the plan for next year’s budget will be revealed Tuesday night, after which Lafayette’s city and parish councils will go through weeks of meetings to tweak spending before passing a final budget in early September.
Because of the expected decline in tax revenues Guillory’s administration is seeking a suspension of the annual 2% pay raises authorized for Lafayette Consolidated Government and Lafayette Police Department employees.
The raises automatically occur when city tax revenue is up by 2% or more in the past year, meaning 2019’s tax revenue would decide 2020’s raises. The city’s tax revenue was up 3.3% in 2019, but the expected revenue shortfall is prompting a suspension of this year’s raise.
Though the raises are conditioned solely on city tax revenue, because some jobs are funded by the city and the parish budget, approval from both councils will be required to cancel the raises for Lafayette Consolidated Government employees, but only the City Council will have to vote on raises for employees of the Lafayette Police Department.
To help offset the city’s excess spending, Lafayette’s City Council will vote on a measure Tuesday to free up roughly $8 million a year to help fund the city’s operating costs through already existing sales taxes.
The measure from City Council Chair Pat Lewis would ask voters in December to approve a change in how the city is allowed to spend revenue from its 2% sales tax, shifting about $8 million from capital spending on items like new equipment and big projects into funds for the city’s regular operating costs.
Members of both councils will also vote Tuesday on a $143,381 per year property tax break for five years for the Bottle Art Lofts apartment development on University Avenue. The parish will account for $118,000 of that lost revenue, while the city will account for $25,000.
The complex has drawn praise from supporters for bringing much-needed redevelopment to the blighted Four Corners area, while opponents have criticized its reliance on government money for about half the project’s initial funding, including a $1.5 million loan from the city of Lafayette and an $8 million loan from Louisiana’s taxpayer-funded Housing Corporation.
The project has been consistently supported by Lafayette's City Council, but Tuesday's vote will mark the first time the Lafayette Parish Council, which is largely made up of new council members, will consider the project.
In other business, Lafayette’s City Council is also set to vote on a resolution in support of an effort to move the statue of Confederate Gen. Alfred Mouton from its place in front of the old City Hall downtown announced by Guillory in June.
The measure, proposed by Lewis, would not order Guillory move the statue, which the local government cannot yet do because of its protected legal status, but would instead support Guillory’s efforts to lift that protection and ultimately move the statue later.
The statue, which was donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Alfred Mouton chapter in 1922, is protected by a 1980 court order obtained by the UDC that prohibits the city from moving it from its current location, an order which Guillory is seeking to undo.
In a change of plans, the City Council will be deferring a change that would have brought short-term rental properties, like Airbnbs, under regulation within city limits.
The ordinance drew a large public response at the council’s July 7 meeting, with opponents complaining about living near the short-term rental properties and supporters saying the regulations would provide the city with much-needed oversight of the rentals.
That provision has been deferred until September as Guillory’s Development and Planning Department is expected to rework the proposal with input from council members and the community.
Follow Andrew Capps for breaking news and updates on Twitter.