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News » Cajundome pushes two bills *** Director seeks changes in tax law to stabilize finances

Cajundome pushes two bills *** Director seeks changes in tax law to stabilize finances

Cajundome pushes two bills *** Director seeks changes in tax law to stabilize finances
LAFAYETTE - The Cajundome is pushing a legislative package that Director Greg Davis hopes will ease the financial woes of the public arena, which has trimmed about $1 million from its budget this year as expenses rise and the economy limps.

The first round of cuts led to the layoff of six full-time employees and across-the-board reductions in other expenses.

The Cajundome already plans to ask the Lafayette City-Parish Council next month for up to $250,000 in emergency funds to plug holes in its $5 million budget.

Davis said two legislative bills could help further stabilize finances.

The first bill would allow the Cajundome to use state sales tax revenue from hotel and motel rooms for operating expenses.

The state already gives the tax revenue to the Cajundome, but the money - about $2.7 million annually - is restricted to capital expenses, such as repairing the building or buying new equipment.

Changing state law to allow some of that money for normal operating expenses could provide a cushion in sluggish economic times, Davis said.

"That could be one place we could go to for relief," he said.

The Cajundome might also seek an exemption from collecting the 8-percent local and states sales taxes, which could save the facility about $200,000 a year, Davis said.

The move for the exemption comes while the Cajundome fights a legal battle with Lafayette Parish Sales Tax Director Carl Meche over tax collections.

Davis has argued that the Cajundome, as a publicly owned facility, should already be exempt from collecting sales tax.

Meche says that Davis misinterprets a law that exempts public agencies from paying sales tax on purchases, such as vehicles, computers or other supplies, but not on sales to customers.

The case is still in the courts, but so far a local judge and the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal have sided with Meche.

A judge ordered the Cajundome last year to begin collecting sales tax while the case was pending.

The total sales tax due each year is about $400,000.

"One half of that we pass on to customers and the other half we eat," Davis said.

He said the exemption, similar to what's given the Superdome in New Orleans, could mean lower prices for patrons and $200,000 more each year in the Cajundome's budget.

The plan for the facility does not include any tax increases, leaving Davis and others questioning a proposal by state Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Harvey, that could lead to an additional one-eighth of a cent hotel/motel tax in Lafayette and other parishes to subsidize the New Orleans Saints .

Sales tax at hotels and motels in Lafayette is now at 12 percent: 4 percent for the Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission, 2 percent for the Lafayette Parish School Board, 2 percent for Lafayette City-Parish Government and 4 percent for the state, which rebates that money to the Cajundome.

Davis said that the Cajundome, which opened in 1985, has avoided seeking additional tax revenue.

"Instead, what we have tried to do is minimize subsidies from government," Davis said.

The Cajundome is eligible for a subsidy of up to $500,000 annually from the city, an amount set when the facility opened in 1985.

The Cajundome has asked for an average subsidy of about $300,000 a year over the past 23 years, Davis said.

Davis said that even if he were not director of the Cajundome, he would have a personal problem with sending tax money to the Saints.

"To think that we are going to divert taxpayer dollars into professional sports is appalling," he said.

City-Parish President Joey Durel said he objects to the Legislature approving an extraction of tax money from Lafayette for the benefit of another area.

"I guess I just don't see the direct benefit to Lafayette," Durel said. "It just seems that once again, the state is taking local money out of the economy and sending it to Baton Rouge, where we lose all control over it."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 27, 2009

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