Horse farm, NGOs big winners in budget finalization
It was a victory for supporters of the horse farm and the Acadiana Center for the Arts Tuesday as the City-Parish Council approved funding for Lafayette Consolidated Government to purchase the pastoral, inner-city paradise from UL as well as to significantly increase LCG’s support for the newly expanded AcA. External agencies that provide social services were also winners Tuesday as the council voted to accept a plan submitted by the Durel administration that consolidates funding for those agencies – heretofore social service and arts/culture agencies were separate line item budget expenditures – within the Community Development Department, which will enlist a five-person committee to review social service agency applications and award $256,000 in grants annually on a competitive basis. A council majority beat back a series of amendments by serial "fiscal hawks” Jared Bellard (District 5) and William Theriot (District 9) that would have eliminated or significantly slashed funding for both arts/culture and social service agencies that are external to LCG. But in a case of two steps forward, one step back, the council approved an amendment offered by Councilmen Kenneth Boudreaux (District 4) and Brandon Shelvin (3) that will give the council the authority to review how external agency grants are allocated through the AcA (for arts organizations) and Community Development (for social services); the overarching aim of City-Parish President Joey Durel’s new model for funding those agencies was to free the funding process from council politics. At first glance, the Boudreaux/Shelvin amendment does the opposite, giving the council veto power over funding priorities set by the grant-awarding panels of the AcA and Community Development. As it stands, the council approved a $500,000 downpayment on LCG’s purchase of the 100-acre horse farm property on Johnston Street, which also includes a land swap in which UL gets the Youth Park property adjacent to campus behind the Johnston Street fire station. (The land has been appraised at roughly $5 million; LCG will enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement with UL and Community Foundation of Acadiana to purchase the land over 10 years and to develop it into a passive public park.) Additionally, the AcA will receive $285,000 in funding for its operating expenses, plus an additional $59,000, which will be awarded in grants to arts/culture providers in Lafayette Parish. The external grants awarded by the AcA will also be distributed by a grants panel through a competive process. The votes on funding of the horse farm purchse and arts/social service agencies was part of the finalization of Durel’s $611 million LCG budget for fiscal year 2010-2011, which commences Nov. 1.