Yesterday, voters in Lafayette Parish voters approved a change to the city-parish charter, but rejected efforts to improve insurance rates with better funding for fire protection, as well as a request from the sheriff for increased funding.
The charter amendment basically de-consolidates the city-parish council. Instead of nine people elected from throughout the parish overseeing the budgets of the city and the parish – which have never been consolidated because of tax dedications – there now will be a city council that oversees city funds and a parish council that oversees parish funds.
City-Parish Councilman Bruce Conque, who worked to get the change passed, said the change is a good one for Lafayette.
“What’s critical about this proposal is, it returns to city of Lafayette autonomous government for first time since 1996,” Conque said. “Current we have nine members on the city-parish council from throughout the parish who have a say-so in how we govern the city of Lafayette.
“With this proposal, we go back to where it was prior to 1996, when we had complete oversight of our utility system and all other city of Lafayette assets.”
The fire tax would have added 10 mills to property tax bills in the unincorporated areas of the parish, and provided about $3.9 million annually for the volunteer departments that service those areas. Those departments currently are operating on minimal funding, which means their equipment is old and breaks down often. That translates into higher insurance policies, because insurance rating agencies look at funding and equipment when setting rates. The tax failed, with 52 percent of voters rejecting the plan.
Sheriff Mark Garber had set up a detailed and ambitious plan to increase funding for his enforcement efforts as well as the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center, and had inked agreements with the cities in the parish (other than Lafayette) to boost pay for those officers. His request for a half-cent sales tax, which would have raised an estimated $25 million annually, was rejected by voters, with 66 percent voting no.
Sheriff Mark Garber issued the following statement:
Following the December 8th election, in which voters did not approve the Law Enforcement District Tax Proposition, Sheriff Mark Garber would like to thank Lafayette Parish voters for their guidance on the direction the sheriff’s office needs to go in the future.
Sheriff Garber said, “We will continue to examine our operations to see where we can consolidate and streamline our services to this community without jeopardizing public safety.”
As we go into the future, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office will strive to provide the best law enforcement services possible with the limited resources available.