Council approves tax hikes for police, fire on spring ballot

City puts two new millages on Spring ballot

The chiefs of the police and fire departments, along with the mayor's top-level staffers, appeared before the City Council on Thursday to request that two property tax increases be placed on the April ballot.

"This is the right time, this is the right proposal," said Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin.

Five of the additional mills would go to the NOPD and generate an estimated $17.7 million a year.

"To recruit, hire, equip and pay for additional police officers to reduce crime," Kopplin said.

On top of that, an extra 2.5 mills would go to the fire protection. Specifically, to help city hall pay off a $75 million settlement with city fire fighters over back pay and pension issues.

"Public safety is a top priority, and fire fighters put their lives on the line every day, and this is a real good first step to honoring the commitment we made to them in the landmark deal," said Fire Supt. Tim McConnell.

NOPD Chief Michael Supt. Harrison told the council that the number of police officers on the force has an impact on response times.

"With the calls from citizens to include traffic accidents, we're handling so many thousands of calls that sometimes we have more calls coming in than officers available to handle those calls, which requires us to have a greater number of officers," he said.

The taxes dedicated to police and fire protection do not fall under the homestead exemption tax break. Property owners would begin paying more on Jan. 1, 2017 and the increases would sunset in December 2028.

If approved by voters, the owner of a $150,000 home would pay $113 more a year; for a $200,000 home it would be an additional $150 annually; for a $250,000 home a bill of $188 more a year; and for a $300,000 home expect to pay an additional $225.

"What we're doing here today is a step in the democratic possess to put this before the people of New Orleans to let them decide what they want to do with their future," City Councilman James Gray said.

The ballot measures must still be presented to the State Bond Commission for approval.  That is expected to happen next month.

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