NEW ORLEANS, LA – Today, the New Orleans City Council unanimously approved the passage of the City’s 2014 Capitol and General Fund budgets, totaling $247 million and $504 million respectively.
“I’m pleased that together with the City Council, we have put together a balanced budget that funds citizen priorities, including 150 new police officers and $65 million in street repairs,” Mayor Landrieu said. “One of the reasons this process goes so smoothly is that we host community meetings with the Councilmembers to hear directly from the people of this city about their priorities, incorporate the Council’s input from the start, and take part in the Council’s robust public hearings on every department’s budget.”
Council President Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson said, “The Council is very proud to have voted for another balanced budget in cooperation with the administration for approximately $505 million, with among the top priorities being 150 new police officers, 100 new police cars, street lights and street signs.”
District A Councilmember Susan Guidry said, "Today's vote was a major step toward making our city a safer place while continuing to reform our criminal justice system.”
District B Councilmember LaToya Cantrell said, “The budget process has resulted in a funded set of priorities that are essential to the future of New Orleans. I want to commend my colleagues on the Council and the representatives of the departments for working together to make our City a stronger, safer place and our government more responsive to its citizens.”
District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer said, “Passing this year's budget required some very difficult choices, but I believe the City of New Orleans is on the right track. I am pleased that the new budget format that I put forward this year improved our ability to review the proposals. The Administration and the Council have placed more emphasis on funding the departments and entities that directly improve the quality of life in our City.
District D Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said, “We have spent countless hours reviewing the Mayor's proposed budget and conducted many budget hearings – all with the end goal of determining the appropriate amount of funding for our various city departments and services. We adopted a 2014 budget that will be fiscally responsible, while still addressing the needs of our citizens.”
Councilmember at Large Stacy Head said, "The budget process has been long and arduous, but I am pleased with the entire Council's dedication to ensuring that baseline programs and services are funded. I am optimistic for our City's future and I pledge to continue monitoring how our dollars are spent."
In 2014, the NOPD’s $128.6 million budget will pay for five recruit classes to put 150 new police officers on the streets. The capitol budget funds 100 new police cars on top of the 100 cars funded in 2013.
It also includes $5.7 million for the NOPD consent decree. Although not required by the consent decree, this budget funds body cameras for officers. These body cameras will eliminate “he said, she said” disputes and help restore public trust in the NOPD with more transparency and accountability.
Public safety is the priority in this budget with NOPD, NOFD and EMS all seeing increases over their 2013 budgets.
Recreation is a top citizen priority. In 2011, the City doubled NORDC’s budget. This year, the City prioritized NORDC again, adding nearly another $1 million on top of their 2013 budget.
Blight is also a top priority. New Orleans is fixing up or tearing down blight faster than anywhere else in the country. The City has hit the Landrieu Administration’s goal of remediating 10,000 blighted properties by the end of this year. The 2014 budget invests nearly $500,000 dollars for new inspectors and title research staff to help speed up the process.
The budget also funds the Sheriff’s office $31 million, including $24.1 million in general fund dollars and $6.9 million in “on behalf” payments for utilities. In keeping with recommendations from the Landrieu Administration’s jail expert, the Sheriff’s budget was increased by $2 million. These new dollars were deducted from the City’s $4.25 million fund balance.
“I am committed to building a right-sized, constitutional jail that doesn’t break the bank,” Mayor Landrieu said. “We are funding the Sheriff at the level that our jail experts recommend. Moving forward, we will work with the Court, the Federal Monitor, the Sheriff and the City Council to ultimately determine the cost of the OPP consent decree and the size of the jail.”
Also today, the City Council approved a change in the law to direct the Sewerage and Water Board to enforce the collection of sanitation service charges by turning off water service for accounts that are delinquent in paying the sanitation service charge. As a next step, the City will enter into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the S&WB.
Earlier this year, the Office of the Inspector General issued a report citing that the City does not collect 15% of sanitation fees owed and called on the City to beef up enforcement efforts.
The City will begin an education campaign before enforcement of the sanitation fees begins in Spring 2014. A reduced sanitation rate of $10 is available for low-income, elderly residents. To be eligible, residents must be 65 years or older and meet low income household income standards established by HUD. For more information and to sign up, residents can call 3-1-1. To spread the word about this program, the City started including information about it in S&WB bills on June 17, 2013.