The City and Parish Councils on Thursday adopted the 2020-21 budget that provides $1 million for Lafayette Police de-escalation training and restores some funding for parks and recreation, the Cajundome and arts and science facilities.
The councils also stripped from the budget pay raises Mayor-President Josh Guillory proposed for some of his staff, including a $10,000 raise for his director of minority affairs, Carlos Harvin, increasing his salary to $60,000.
Among the funding restored to or allocated in the budget for the fiscal year that begins Nov. 1 are:
- $1.75 million to parks and recreation
- $1 million for special police training in the wake of the Aug. 21 fatal shooting of Trayford Pellerin by city police
- $500,000 for the Cajundome
- $300,000 from CREATE funds for two curators at the Lafayette Science Museum
- $230,000 for a maintenance foreman and temporary employees at the Heymann Center for Performing Arts
- $100,000 for the Acadiana Center for the Arts
- $30,000 for a fundraising/marketing position for the Heymann Center for Performing Arts
Both the City and Parish Councils voted unanimously to adopt the amended budget. Parish Councilman John Guilbeau was absent because of health reasons.
The City Council’s special attorney, Lea Anne Batson of Baton Rouge, was present at the meeting in the audience. She was hired this week to represent the City Council on budget and voting disputes with the administration and legal team.
City Council Chairman Pat Lewis, after the meeting, said the two council chairmen and Batson met with Council Clerk Veronica Williams and Assistant City-Parish Attorney Paul Escott prior to the meeting to work out how the meeting would be handled, especially to determine when only the City Council would vote on items and when both councils would vote.
The voting process worked, Lewis said, because Batson was there.
“It showed we needed her,” he said. “She has other great ideas on how to move forward.”
This was the first budget prepared by Guillory, who took office in January. Prepared during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the budget was based on conservative projections for sales tax revenue, leading Guillory to impose drastic cuts, some of which were restored, at least partially, by the City Council when actual sales tax collections greatly outpaced Guillory’s projections.
It also was the first budget to go before separate City and Parish Councils, which came into being in January because of a 2018 home rule charter amendment voters approved to split the councils and give city of Lafayette residents their own council and better oversight of city taxes. Previously, a combined City-Parish Council legislated Lafayette Consolidated Government.
The councils struggled at times during the budget process over when only the City Council voted on a budget item and when both the City and Parish Councils voted. With the administration’s legal team opining in favor of the Parish Council and administration, the City Council this week hired its own special counsel for advice.
The budget that Guillory proposed in July cut funding to parks and recreation, the Heymann Performing Arts Center and golf courses, and reduced funding for the science museum, Acadiana Nature Station and an annual 2% pay raise for employees.
Guillory had already laid off 138 employees from parks and recreation, the Heymann Center, Nature Station and science museum, and said he was shutting down four recreation centers in north Lafayette, sparking backlash from residents who said the mayor-president was targeting arts and culture facilities and recreation centers in economically-challenged minority neighborhoods.