LaFayette explores ways to balance budget

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, January 19, 2022

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At its budget meeting on Thursday, the LaFayette City Council was faced with a difficult decision to increase rates for services, eliminate or decrease services or find another way to balance the city’s budget. The council ultimately decided to speak with department heads about possibly slashing unnecessary costs in city departments and proposed that the city increase its prices for cemetery plots. They also proposed increasing rates on garbage pickup and water.

“The only thing that we are receiving right now in the plus, in the black, is our utilities department,” LaFayette Mayor Kenneth Vines said in an interview later. “Other than that, all of the departments are in the red — fire, EMS, our water department because we’re spending more than we’re bringing in.”

He said a part of why the city is in the red is that it has put off taking care of problems that are “catching up” with it, such as outdated equipment at its water plant.

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During the meeting, City Clerk Louis Davidson planned to send City Attorney Joseph (Mac) Tucker an email about what was discussed at the meeting and what they recommended for cemetery lot prices.

The council decided on a tentative price of $450 for cemetery plots with flat headstones and $550 for plots with raised headstones.

Their reasoning for the difference in these prices was that plots with raised headstones take more time to care for. The prices are intended to cover plots as well as their perpetual care.

Davidson said previously that the current price of a cemetery plot in a LaFayette City Cemetery is $125. A cost of $50 covers the space while $75 covers perpetual maintenance of the space.

The average cost of a burial plot in a public cemetery is $200 to $2,000, according to end-of-life website Love Lives On. Costs are generally lower in rural cemeteries and higher in urban cemeteries.

Near the beginning of the meeting, the council discussed taxing and/or requiring a license for rental properties.

Davidson said he believed that in Valley, people wanting to rent out properties need a license in order to do so.

“And then they actually charge you a percentage of whatever your monthly rate is,” he said.

Councilmember Terry Mangram argued that any service the City of LaFayette renders to anyone should bring in some type of income, since it costs the city money.

“So, if it’s going to cost the city, there’s no use in the city running it and letting other people live off of it or do it for free,” he said.

“I think people tend to forget that the city is a business,” Vines said “That’s the thing … we’ve got to start running it like a business.”

The council also visited the subject of business licenses in LaFayette. Davidson said that the city has to classify many modern businesses as miscellaneous because the city’s ordinance on businesses was written a long time ago.

“Even now, like a food truck, that’s not in our ordinance,” Davidson said. “Our ordinance is 25 to 30 years old.”

When the local solar plant was built in LaFayette, Davidson and City Attorney Tucker found that they couldn’t require the company to get a business license because the city’s ordinance said they were exempt, Davidson said.

Mangram said the city needed to find a way to get revenue for the newer of its two parks.

“I had suggested before that we see if we could find some volunteers who will form a 501c3 so that [it will] get tax-deductible contributions and start accumulating money that way,” Councilmember T. Shannon Hunter said.

Councilmember Michael Ellis proposed having people pay for memorial placards along a walking trail in the park.

Hunter argued that a walking trail may cost the city law enforcement money to combat crime that could happen in hidden places in the park.

Vines said people wouldn’t mind the hypothetical one-cent sales tax the council had discussed before if they knew what it would be used for. He proposed that it could be used toward the park.

The City of LaFayette’s next council meeting will be on Monday, Jan. 24 at 5:30 p.m.