Mayor Mitch Landrieu will hold the first of five town-hall meetings on the 2015 city budget Monday night at 6 p.m. in City Council District C. It will be held at Landry-Walker College and Career Preparatory High School, 1200 L.B. Landry Ave., in Algiers.
The Lens will live blog the meeting here.
New Orleans began 2014 with its first budget surplus in five years due in large part to increased sales tax collections. But some expensive bills are finally coming due, and it looks increasingly unlikely that there will be a budget surplus for two years straight.
Having exhausted options for fighting a judgment requiring a $17.5 million infusion to firefighter pensions, the city has been ordered to show significant progress toward making the full payment by next month. Last week, the City Council took $2 million out of the police personnel budget to pay into the pension system.
The Landrieu administration hasn’t fared much better in trying to minimize the city’s obligations to Orleans Parish Prison. While the long-term costs of a federal consent decree have yet to be determined, estimates to pay for mandated jail staffing and equipment run well above $10 million per year. In the short-term, U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk last week ordered the city to pay Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman $200,000 per month to cover the cost of housing mentally ill inmates at the state correctional facility in St. Gabriel. The city must also pay startup costs for the plan, which come to $400,000.
Landrieu is asking voters to approve a measure that would nearly double the maximum police and fire property tax rate, raising it from 10.47 mills to 20 mills. (The Lens created a calculator so homeowners can see how much their bill would rise.)
Meanwhile, the public library system — which has not gotten anything from the city’s general fund since 2011 — has run through its reserves and will likely need millions next year just to maintain its current operations, WWL-TV reported.
Beyond those extraordinary budget issues, the Landrieu administration still has to pay for the basic operations of the city and make payroll for more than 4,000 public employees. What’s more, Landrieu wants to get the police department up to 1,600 officers from about 1,100 now.
Landrieu usually releases his budget proposal in October. The City Council has until Dec. 1 to approve the next year’s budget.