Lafayette budget concerns cause councils to shuffle funding

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LAFAYETTE, La. — The Lafayette Parish and City Councils are already making tough decisions to shuffle funding in the midst of COVID-19.

The question each councilman and councilwoman tried to answer in their first meeting in over a month is what’s an essential service and what can be done to afford them.

“Times like this shows what we are made of,” stated Abraham “AB” Rubin, Jr., District 5 Parish Councilman, in his opening remarks.

Mayor-President Josh Guillory argued what started as a health emergency is now an economic emergency.

“Our city fund is in a dire situation,” he said. “If we don’t change our spending habits, we are going to run out of money sooner rather than later.”

While trying to keep Lafayette healthy, elected officials for the city and parish are trying to keep its most important functions running but sometimes at the expense of others.

In one instance District 2 Parish Councilman Kevin Naquin said, “If you had to ask somebody today what is the most bang for your buck and what means something to you, I’m sure parish fire, life protection would mean more than CREATE (culture, arts, tourism).”

The city is put all its funding options on the table, giving approval for possible future bonds, loans, grants and sales of LCG property, even considering cancelling improvement projects in the city.

“I have struggled with this I have to say,” admitted District 4 City Councilwoman Nanette Cook while debating removing funding options for a $1.5M loan that would aid the demolition of the Payless Motel and revitalization of the Four Corners area.

That funding remained in place despite the Mayor-President’s Guillory’s wishes. Hours of debate resulted in the first steps to helping the Lafayette Consolidate Government survive what LCG’s Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups called a three-pronged attack.

“One of any of these three things we could have overcome at one time, but all three, between the 18 million in fund balance, the COVID crisis, the oil crisis, it’s a lot at one time,” she said.

Several on the council concluded a number of projects which already received approval and have appropriated funds, will likely be defunded in the future to make the ends of the budget meet.

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