Jan 24, 2012 11:34 PM by Shawn Kline

Council sits on sending sales tax proposal to voters

Could a half-cent sales tax solve an under-funded fire department?
Lafayette's City-Parish Council is looking into it.

Lafayette Fire Chief Robert Benoit says the parish needs two new fire stations in order to maintain its fire rating. City-Parish Council is looking at introducing the first sales tax increase since the 1980's to pay for those stations, but on Tuesday night, council put a decision on hold.

If a pair of new fire stations aren't built and staffed within the next year, homeowners could see a 9% insurance hike.
City-Parish Council needs to find a way to come up with about $10-million (Council is already working with a projected $5-million budget shortfall on top of that).

Raising sales taxes from 8% to 8.5% is the main option. That would raise about $16-million/year and would need voters' approval in either April or November. Councilman William Theriot says he'd like to review that option first, before taxpayers vote on it in a possible November election.

"By deferring the resolution for 30 days, we still have the ability to bring some form of plan to the people possibly for vote in November," Theriot said.

But November may be cutting it close. A group of insurance companies are already bearing down on the Lafayette Fire Department, threatening a downgrade of its fire rating.
Chief Robert Benoit says the rating will be evaluated over the next year but the funding needs to come through.

"(The council) has to find the funding," Benoit said. "My concern is to maintain what we have and keep moving forward because we haven't lost a rating yet so I'm positive."

If council passes the sales tax to a public vote and voters approve the half-cent sales tax , it will be the first in 26-years.



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