New Orleans City Council members said Thursday they will more closely monitor the spending of the Algiers Economic Development District, which benefits from about $1.5 million annually in financial support from the city.
The remarks came during a joint meeting of the council’s Budget, Audit and Board of Review committees.
A critical report from the state Legislative Auditor’s Office in 2008 pointed out serious flaws in oversight of the district. It recommended that the district’s board begin submitting all contracts, arrangements, plans and annual budgets to the City Council for review and approval as required by state and local laws.
Of course, oversight involves two parties.
Council President Jackie Clarkson said the council should have been asking for such things all along.
“Yes, you should have,” replied city Budget Director Cary Grant, who addressed the council along with Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin.
Such reports are required because the council approved a measure in 2008 that provided the district with city money from a tax-increment financing arrangement. Under that deal, increased tax money generated by business development in a section of Behrman Highway anchored by Walmart goes to the development district, not city coffers.
The district is charged with using some of that money to help create Federal City, a major redevelopment of a former military base in Algiers. Correction, Aug. 7: Not all of the money generated through the 2008 measure is applied to Federal City.
Also during the brief meeting, Councilwoman Stacy Head asked Kopplin whether the city will be trying to recoup federal grant money, administered by the city, that was not fully spent on public-benefit projects. Kopplin said city officials are evaluating underperforming agencies, going back years and pursuing those most likely to be able to repay the grants.
Clarkson encouraged Kopplin to compile and present to the City Council a list of all instances where money has been recovered and put to use by redirecting it to capable agencies. She said it would be a good “show and tell” for the administration.
Kopplin also reassured the committee that Mayor Mitch Landrieu again will hold a series of town-hall meetings in August and September to seek citizen input on the 2013 city budget. Landrieu began such meetings in 2010, though he hasn’t always heeded citizen calls for shifting city spending.