November 21, 2019 10:00 AM
City Council Chamber
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NEW ORLEANS - At today's regular meeting, the City Council adopted the 2020 Capital and Operating Budgets for the City of New Orleans, approved Harrah's Community Support Grant recipients, amended the City Code relative to Vehicles for Hire, and adopted a series of ordinances with changes to the 2019 Capital Budget.
Additionally, the Council heard from BYOBikes on its work to raise money to provide biking gear for at-risk youth, from Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF) and partners on "Taking Steps Together on Equity & Climate Change: A Report by and for New Orleanians," and spokespersons from the U.S. Census Bureau on the establishment of Census Complete Count Committees throughout the city.
Council Adopts 2020 City Budgets
After several weeks of budget hearings, the Council adopted the City's 2020 Operating and Capital Budgets, concluding the annual budget review process and establishing spending levels for the coming year. Prior to the meeting, the City held a special Revenue Estimating Conference to adopt an adjusted 2020 revenue forecast, as well as a special meeting required under state law for taxing rate changes associated with the quadrennial reassessment process.
Since October 17, when Mayor LaToya Cantrell appeared before the Council to present a proposed $721.9 million annual operating budget from the City's general fund, the Council has held a rigorous budget review process to learn the needs of each department and listen to residents' concerns. Under the leadership of Budget Committee Chair Jared C. Brossett, the Council held two weeks of hearings on the proposed 2020 Budget beginning Monday, October 28 through Friday, November 15, 2019. The amended operating budget total is 725.9 million, which represents an increase of $4 million.
"Today is a historic one for the City of New Orleans and our children. We're setting an unprecedentedly high bar for the State of Louisiana and the entire country with this incredible investment in our young people. We've gone from $750,000 two years ago, to $1.5 million in 2018, to an unprecedented $3 million for early childhood education in 2020. I'm extremely grateful to my colleagues, the Administration, and my staff for the months of hard work that went into this budget. Our future and that of our children, has never been brighter," said District "D" Councilmember and Budget Chair Jared Brossett.
2020 Budget highlights include funding for the following:
- Early Childhood Education programs to expand access to quality early childcare and education in New Orleans (doubling funding by $1.5M to bring the allocation to $3M)
- Total Community Action to purchase a food pantry freezer to store food provides low-income vulnerable individuals/families with food supplements ($8,000)
- Demolition of the blighted Higgins Gate apartment complex ($800,000)
- Algiers Water Management Study ($250,000)
- Code Enforcement to address quality of life needs and eliminate blight ($700,000)
- Department of Health for mobile decibel monitors to address noise concerns ($45,000)
- Department of Health for a Domestic Violence Initiative ($250,000)
"I'm very pleased with the collaboration of the budget process," said Councilmember-At-Large Helena Moreno. "My colleagues and I on this Council have been laser-focused on making New Orleans a more affordable city to live in since we began in 2018. Today, the Council followed through by lowering - not raising - property taxes at a time when assessments are skyrocketing and potentially forcing long term homeowners out of their neighborhoods. The Council also made clear its priorities: infrastructure and public safety. I'm also proud that we once again doubled funding for early childhood education and allocated specific funding for domestic violence initiatives."
Throughout this year's budget hearings, Councilmember Brossett led a negotiation process with the Mayor's Administration to ensure that critical initiatives and services are funded while minimizing the burden on our residents' tax bills. Given that the 2020 tax year is a quadrennial reassessment year, there has been considerable discussion regarding the reassessment process and the rising property tax assessments that resulted, leading to heightened concern among residents about their tax bills and the effect a potential roll forward could have on that bill.
In a reassessment year, the Council may roll forward millages up to the maximum authorized rates. Recognizing the concerns of residents, Councilmember Brossett ensured the redirection of certain millages to fund public safety and infrastructure while reducing (rolling back) other millages. This redirection of millages allows the Council to support key initiatives and ensure that services are funded, while minimizing the tax burden on residents and remaining revenue-neutral for millage rates over which the Council has control.
Key millages being funded:
- New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) & Fire Department (NOFD)
- Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB)
- City Alimony
- Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund (NHIF)
- Certain millages being levied below the roll back millage rate:
- Economic Development Fund
- Capital Improvement Fund
- Audubon Park
- New Orleans Public Library
"This budget is a true collaboration of the Administration and the Council to improve critical services that our City values and expects. We worked diligently to approve a budget that shows our shared priorities such as public safety, infrastructure, quality of life, economic development, and most importantly, the children of this city. I applaud everyone involved for a continued focus of providing better education outcomes for New Orleans' most vulnerable children by funding early childhood education, investing in our fire and police departments to ensure they have the resources to better serve our citizens, and securing much-needed monies to finally clean up, Higgins Gate, a huge blighted property in Algiers which I hope will spur new development on the West Bank." said District "C" Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer.
"The extraordinary commitment we've made here today will pay way more dividends for our city in the long-run," said Councilmember-At-Large Jason Williams. "Because of Governor John Bel Edwards, and what's happened at the State level, we're now in a position to receive matched funding to the already historic amount we've approved, doubling the number of young people we're able to help with a total $6 million investment. This is a tremendous day in the City of New Orleans as we become the only state providing this level of localized investment in early childhood care and education. Finally, New Orleans is becoming the city on a hill for the State of Louisiana, the South and the entire United States, and our children will be a testament to that for generations to come."
"Today, we protected funding for vital public services in a smart way," said District "A" Councilmember Joe Giarrusso. "Government's first job is to provide those public services responsibly. This deal between the Mayor and Council concentrates on quality of life issues with spending for first responders, streets, drainage, maintenance, and other fundamental needs."
City officials including CAO Gilbert Montano & Assistant CAO Cary Grant presenting 2020 budget initiatives to the Council (left) and Councilmembers with Mayor LaToya Cantrell during today's budget announcement press conference
Updated Requirements for Vehicles for Hire
The Council approved an ordinance that amends the City Code relative to Vehicles for Hire, updating Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience (CPNC) regulations to reduce certain fees and increase the permissible age of vehicles, as well as timing for certain submittal requirements and timing allowances for drug testing.
Ordinance 32,794 augments the age at which a CPNC vehicle may be operated to 15 years, and sets the following fees charged by the Department of Safety and Permits for Accessible Taxicab CPNCS:
- Initial license: $100.00
- Annual renewal: $100.00
- Delinquency penalty (late submissions): $50 in addition to $100 renewal fee
- Extension for acquiring a vehicle and fee: $25 per month
To view the approved changes in their entirety, click here.
Photo courtesy neworleans.com
City Council/Harrah's Community Support Grants Approved
The Council authorized Harrah's Community Support Grant Program recipients per office. The program was established in March 2006 to provide grant support to local organizations and projects that contribute substantially to the well-being, development, and growth of the New Orleans community. The program is intended to be broad-based and to foster a diversity of meritorious organizations and projects.
Harrah's grant funds are available to the Council semi-annually, in the late spring (June) and in the fall (November). The Council receives $225,000 annually ($16,071 semi-annually per Councilmember), and any funds not awarded at the end of the year are rolled forward into the following. Requests for Harrah's grant consideration should be submitted to individual Council offices.
To view the full list of approved organizations, click here.
For more information on City Council/Harrah's Community Support Grant Program, click here.
Council Authorizes Changes to 2019 Capital Budget
The Council passed a series of ordinances amending the 2019 Capital Budget. Ordinance 32,812 moves bond balances and miscellaneous capital funds to active projects, Ordinance 32,822 appropriates funds to the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC), and Ordinance 32,834 appropriates funds to the New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD).