Mayor Landrieu unveils lean budget, spares police, fire, EMS - FOX 8, WVUE,, weather, app, news, saints

Mayor Landrieu unveils lean budget, spares police, fire, EMS

Mayor Landrieu presents his budget proposal to news media during morning press conference. Mayor Landrieu presents his budget proposal to news media during morning press conference.

New Orleans, La. — Mayor Mitch Landrieu walked out of his office shortly before noon Monday and unveiled a 2013 budget proposal that reflects a lot of fiscal pain.

"Across the board costs are rising and we have additional requirements to the NOPD consent decree that will make 2013 a very tough year for us all," Landrieu said from the podium in his press room.

Landrieu is proposing a $491 million budget for the day-to-day operation of city government. A separate budget is proposed for capital improvements.

Three areas of public safety will not be impacted by the lean budgetary blueprint. The New Orleans Police Department, the New Orleans Fire Department and the Department of Emergency Medical Services are spared any cuts.

"In this budget, NOPD is funded at 1,260 total sworn officers.  If we get below that number we will start a new recruit class," Landrieu said.

His budget proposal also includes $7 million for expenses related to the NOPD consent decree, which aims to overhaul the troubled police department. Funds are also in the budget to equip each police car with a camera, and there are funds for 100 new police vehicles.

"We will not have layoffs at NOPD," said the mayor.

But the district attorney, public defenders, and some courts could see slight reductions in funds they receive from city government. The city has maintained for decades that those agencies are state responsibilities.

Orleans D.A. Leon Cannizzaro quickly issued the following statement agreeing with the mayor's proposed budget for his office:

I want to commend Mayor Landrieu on his ability to assemble the 2013 budget. This year the Mayor faced an extremely difficult fiscal situation. The Mayor and CAO Andy Kopplin sat down with me and members of my staff to examine the financial condition of the DA's office. Together we were able to reach arrive at a solution that would fund the District Attorney's office at a level that would not require any reduction in services in the coming year. Despite the very difficult fiscal environment that he faced, I believe that this budget is a clear demonstration of his commitment to public safety.

Many other city departments will see an 8 percent to 10 percent cut in funding next year. And though Landrieu does not expect massive layoffs, he could not rule out that no worker will lose his or her position because of individual city departments losing funding.

"We think through attrition we can get to our numbers just through management practices," Landrieu stated.

"I will say that there may be occasions where a department looking at 8 percent or 10 percent cut says we're going to stop performing this function and a targeted layoff to that function might be necessary," said Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin.

And in his proposed budget, Landrieu said his own office will suffer a 25 percent funding cut.

City Council Budget Committee Chairwoman Jackie Clarkson said the council's budget should be reduced, as well.  "I don't have an amount yet, but we will absolutely reduce our budget," Clarkson said when questioned by news reporters.

Landrieu said employee benefits are increasingly more expensive, "In particular, the fire pension and workers compensation claims... We cannot and I will not spend more than what we have; we must live within our means."

He said during the next legislative session he will again ask that firefighters, like police, pay their fair share.  "The current situation with the pension is unfair to taxpayers, it's unfair to firefighters, in fact, it's crazy," Landrieu said.

The mayor also wants a more dependable source of money for streetlights.  Landrieu is asking the City Council to approve a 2-percent Entergy franchise fee adjustment. The fee appears on Entergy bills, and Landrieu said his proposal would cost most households about $2 to $3 per month. The money would be dedicated to street light maintenance.

Clarkson said she does not have a problem with that idea, but the full council must weigh in.  "We've saved the ratepayers money but it's cost our budget, if you follow the numbers, and so this would offset that and give us streetlights," Clarkson stated.

Landrieu also wants the council to give the Sewerage and Water Board authority to turn off the water of customers who refuse to pay the sanitation fee which also appears on water bills. That fee funds trash collection services. 

Landrieu believes the city's financial pain is worsened by actions at the state level.

"Our state can't seem to get its act together. The state is not meeting its obligations, whether it is funding the New Orleans District, the public defender, or mental health. Look at the unprecedented and massive cuts to higher education and health care... over 400 jobs lost at LSU Medical Center," he said.

The Jindal administration issued a response to Landrieu remarks in a statement by Michael DiResto, assistant commissioner of policy and communications in the Division of Administration:

Despite budget challenges facing the state, funding for the Orleans parish District Attorney's office is up 30 percent, Public Defender Board funding statewide is up 17 percent, and funding for mental health services through the Metropolitan Human Services District has gone up 6 percent in the last two years, while the state is maintaining its behavioral health capacity and actually increasing the number of beds in the New Orleans area, despite the FMAP cuts caused by Congress. In the meantime, the state is investing $1 billion and making tremendous progress toward construction of the new world-class University Medical Center, while the city of New Orleans has tens of millions of dollars sitting in discretionary funds and has nearly $218 million in unspent Long Term Community Recovery program funds from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In contrast, the Mayor's sister – U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu – voted to cut Louisiana's Medicaid funding by over $800 million.

By law, the Cty Council must approve a balanced budget for 2013 by December 1.

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