As the Lafayette City-Parish budget process continues, the City of Lafayette received some great news on Monday: the sales tax collections were much higher than anticipated for the month of July.

Lafayette City District 1 Councilman Pat Lewis says collections totaled more than $7 million, a two-percent increase over collections for July 2019. These collections reflect June sales.

"This is good news," says Councilman Lewis in a press release. "The budget proposed by the City-Parish administration was built on the assumption that the City of Lafayette's sales tax projections would be severely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. Much higher than anticipated collections open the door for more flexibility in the ongoing budgeting process."

Lewis points out that should the positive trend continue, the City of Lafayette would actually end the current fiscal year with $79.4 million in collections - an increase of more than $12 million than projected in the proposed budget.

In the three months leading up to this release of June sales, March, April, and May sales tax collections were down 14.9%, 21.1%, and 14.9%, respectively, from those same months in 2019. This led to Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory's Administration's proposed budget to assume that the City of Lafayette would end this current fiscal year with only $67 million in collections, according to Councilman Lewis.

"The pretty severe dip the city saw in sales tax collections during the shut-down definitely gave us a reason for us to be careful in how we budget for the future," says City Council Chairman Pat Lewis. "But I think we have also seen the positive impact of the gradual, responsible re-opening of businesses. It's very encouraging to know that business activity was at a 'normal' level in June."

With Monday's positive report, Councilman Lewis says he wants to revisit Mayor-President Guillory's budget assumptions that predicts sales taxes in the City of Lafayette declining 27% from what was collected in the 2019 fiscal year.

“Projecting a full 27% decrease from the 2019 budget is unrealistic, and I think that has led to false pressure to close facilities and lay off employees,” Lewis says. “Now that we have a better sense of what the economic recovery may look like for Lafayette, it’s important that we take a more reasonable look at how to project revenue going forward.”

As for Mayor-President Guillory's roughly $6 million in cuts to the Parks and Recreations Department, the Lafayette Science Museum, the Cajundome, the Heymann Performing Arts Center, and the Acadiana Center for the Arts, Couniclman Lewis points out these are all 100% funded with city dollars.

"If the City Council decided to project the rest of the current year and next year’s sales tax revenues at “only” a 15% decline from 2019 — to reflect the type of slower economic activity that occurred in Phase 1 as opposed to the more dramatic 27% decrease predicted by the administration) — that would free up an additional $6.5 million to the City’s General Fund more than what is currently projected in the administration’s proposed budget," says Councilman Lewis in the press release.

Lafayette City District 4 Councilwoman Nanette Cook says she is "encouraged by the positive economic news," she "doesn't know how the budget process will end up next month."

It is important for all of us as elected officials to remember that we have a responsibility to the taxpayers to make wise, informed decisions with city tax dollars," says Councilwoman Cook. "While we are not out of the woods yet, this is very good news for the citizens of Lafayette that things are improving.”

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