The New Orleans City Council on Thursday approved the city’s 2014 budget, making few, minor changes to the budget as originally proposed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Among the highlights:
» The council added only $2 million in additional funding to the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office budget to cover expenses for a federal consent decree for Orleans Parish Prison.
Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin told the council that the allocation was based on testimony from consultant David Eichenthal. Earlier estimates for the annual cost of the consent decree ranged from $7 million to $22.5 million.
That means that for the entire year, the city will provide just a bit more than the $1.9 million it committed to cover consent decree costs in the last three months of 2013.
» The budget doesn’t address $17.5 million in overdue payments to the firefighters pension fund.
In March, a state judge ordered the city to pay that money, some of which was due in 2012, but the city has appealed the ruling. Late last month, Tommy Meagher, secretary-treasurer of the pension fund, told council members that the city’s total outstanding obligations could grow to $25 million next year.
» The Sewerage & Water Board can now cut off water service for customers who fail to pay their monthly trash fee. The fee is $24 for residential properties and $48 for large, commercial properties.
A city program reduces the residential fee to $10 for low-income customers who are older than 65 or disabled, but there’s no assistance for others.
The Landrieu-proposed law is expected to bring in $1.3 million in additional revenues next year.
Council members Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell amended the ordinance to require notices to be mailed to the service address and the mailing address before water is turned off. That’s supposed to deal with cases in which landlords pay their tenants’ water and trash bills.
The council did not bring the proposal to a public hearing until Thursday, when a few people spoke out against it. The council passed the measure unanimously as amended.