New Orleans, La. -- One of the ballot measures voters citywide will decide next Tuesday is a proposed property tax renewal dedicated to the New Orleans Regional Business Park.
The park's mission is to attract new businesses and expand existing businesses. Supporters said passage will mean more jobs for the city, while some opponents said the tax renewal will be a waste of money.
"This millage will be placed upon businesses within the business park. No home owner, or renter will have to pay this millage, but it will create jobs," said Joseph Shorter, the new executive director of NORBP.
Specifically, the proposition is a 20-year, 20-mill property tax renewal for businesses within the boundaries of the business park. Renewal of the tax would generate $218,500 a year.
"There was a levy like that in effect for a long time and it expired," said Janet Howard of the Bureau of Governmental Research.
New Orleans voters refused to renew the tax last year, and BGR recommends voters say "no" once again.
"The business park has been in sad shape, it's failed its mission for about 33 years. Streets out there are a mess, street lights are out, there's dumping," said Howard.
Shorter believes the electorate was not provided enough information last year. "I don't think it was really enunciated to the public. This year we've shown that we're going to spend nearly 20 percent of the funds on cleaning up the park," he said. Shorter said they will also institute a business incubator and loan and grant programs.
"Most of the budget of the organization is going to administrative expenses, and they're running a deficit this year of approximately $160,000. This millage would produce maybe $220,000, so much of what you're doing is filling a budget gap. The funds really are not adequate for addressing the infrastructure needs there," stated Howard.
"The deficit that's being discussed is a paper deficit. We in fact generate a quarter of a million dollars based on the spaces that we currently lease," Shorter said in response.
The feds launched a probe into the business park's operation after a series of Lee Zurik investigative reports into allegations of grant money being mishandled.
"Our board has been totally revamped. The mayor has three appointments to this board… We have an absolute fresh start," said Shorter.
"Our point of view is that it's not successful even if it is well-managed," said Howard.
While Shorter believes the final tally on election night will be close, he says they have made a good case for passage of this property tax renewal. "This is low hanging fruit on the vine that we can harvest now to bring jobs to our jobs to our citizens here in New Orleans," he said.
A spokesman said Mayor Mitch Landrieu has not taken a position on the proposed tax renewal.