LAFAYETTE, LA — The Lafayette Consolidated Government is organizing new tax districts in the face of a pending lawsuit against them. Thursday night the city-parish council held five of ten special meetings before swearing in new councils Monday, Jan. 6.
Five plaintiffs seek to hit the reset button on all of what has been done officially create new economic development districts (EDD), but those who live and work in the districts say they need these new taxes now.
In Downtown Lafayette, streets, sewers, and other infrastructure can appear outdated. That’s why Stephen Ortego supports a 1% sales and use tax and 2% hotel occupancy tax, known as an EDD, in his district and four other districts in the city.
“You don’t necessarily look at this as a tax. You look at it as an investment,” said Stephen Ortego, a downtown-based architect. “Anything that’s generated within that district has to stay within that district, so it’s very hyperlocal. It’s like, ‘Hey, we’re deciding as a local district this is what we want to do.”
“There were specific times for doing that. They (the council) didn’t follow the times,” argued Attorney Lane Roy. He represents five men and women filing suit against the tax districts.
They argue the when creating EDD’s the council did not give enough notice before their introduction or enactment, which would make all five null and void.
Roy stated, “It’s really a principal issue here, not a personal issue of any kind.”
The council and EDD board’s legal authority, Mike Hebert, said he doesn’t expect the lawsuit to succeed, “Our review indicates that the risk of that occurring is very remote. We believe we have very solid defenses and responses to the claims of the lawsuit.”
Ultimately, it will be up for a judge to decide whether the five districts begin as scheduled July 1, 2020, or die from a technicality.
“You have to notify people,” Roy emphasized. “If you have a good idea or a reasonable idea, they will be happy to vote and pay taxes for it. If you don’t or try to hide something inadvertently or otherwise, then it becomes suspicious, even if it’s a good idea.”
“As a community in Lafayette to keep up with other communities,” Ortego said. “We have to look at all the tools in the toolbox and use them, just like other communities like Baton Rouge, or Lake Charles, or New Orleans have been doing for the last couple of years.”
Five more special meetings on the tax districts will be held Wednesday, Jan. 3, @12:00 P.M. There will be a public hearing on February 18, and EDD taxes will be collected starting July 1, 2020.
You can read the entire lawsuit here: