Police, fire unions urge passage of public safety millage - FOX 8, WVUE, fox8live.com, weather, app, news, saints

Police, fire unions urge passage of public safety millage

Union leaders attend press conference in Lakeview. (Sabrina Wilson/FOX 8 News Union leaders attend press conference in Lakeview. (Sabrina Wilson/FOX 8 News

Leaders of the police and fire unions came together Wednesday to urge voters to approve a millage for police and fire protection. On April 9 voters will go to the polls.

"All here to tell you to put public safety first,” said Nick Felton, President of the Firefighters Association of New Orleans.

The proposed public safety millage includes 5 mills for police and 2.5 mills for fire protection. The mills would not fall under the homestead exemption.

On the crime-fighting side, the tax would give the city more money to hire and pay police at a time when response times by NOPD officers is under criticism. For firefighters, the proposed millage would generate millions needed to pay fire personnel money they are owed as part of a pension settlement reached with City Hall.

"The citizens in the city have noticed the lack of manpower that we experience every day in the response times to calls for service and so forth, and while the police department is doing whatever they can to try to improve that with the manpower we have, the only true remedy is going to be to hire additional police officers,” said Donovan Livaccari, a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police.

Morale is suffering among the rank and file, according to the union leaders.

"The bottom line is that we are not hiring enough to truly offset the attrition and to grow the department. We're barely breaking even, and that, unfortunately, is not doing it. And of course, the cops are not happy with the fact when they come to work they don't see much of an improvement,” said Mike Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans.

"It's clearly affecting morale, but there are other things that are happening within the department that also boosts morale, so it's mix,” said Simon Hargrove, president of the Black Organization of Police.

And Nick Felton said the number of New Orleans firefighters is significantly down, as well.

"We are down to an all-time low of 530 some-odd firefighters,” said Felton.

He said when Katrina hit, there were close to 900 New Orleans firefighters.

"It's a revolving door, so we're hoping to bridge that, and stop that with shoring up a pension system,” said Felton.

If approved, the owner of a home assessed at $150,000 would pay $113 more a year; for a home with an assessed value of $183,700, it would be $138 more in property taxes annually; and for a $400,000 home, the property tax bill would be $300 more a year.

So far there does not appear to be vocal opposition.

"A number of organizations sometimes typically are against us are with us because they also do recognize the needs of both the police and fire departments,” said Felton.

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