City Council approves 2017 budget; DA upset over cut

City Council approves 2017 budget; DA upset over cut

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The New Orleans City Council on Thursday approved a new operating budget for 2017.

The $600 million budget gives more money to the NOPD, but cuts funds for the District Attorney's Office.

"This is a compromise document," said Councilman James Gray.

In October, Mayor Mitch Landrieu outlined his budget proposal, carving out funds for 150 additional NOPD officers, money for the fire fighters pension fund and license plate readers, among other things.

"Pushing for the license plate readers that we will now have for our New Orleans Police Department, so added tools that they have also requested and it will increase our capacity to solve crime," said Councilman Latoya Cantrell.

Before the vote on the budget, there were myriad amendments that made about $850,000 in changes to the spending plans.

The Council on Aging is getting $250,000 added to its budget.

"Look forward to providing the critical services that our constituents expect," said Councilman Jared Brossett, who wanted more money for senior citizen programs.

Mayor Landrieu, in initially presenting his budget proposal, said Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman's office would receive $53 million. The figure was revised downward to $44 million.

"Correct, because there were one-time monies in this current year for moving inmates, for paying settlements and a bunch of other things. We also expect to see millions of dollars in cost savings from reforms to contracting and other provisions," said Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni.

The Public Defenders Office will get an estimated $600,000 more from revenues generated by additional traffic cameras that will go up around the city in 2017.

But the DA's Office lost $600,000 in the spending plan. Other areas of the criminal justice system will benefit.

"Additional funding for Municipal Court Diversion Program, juvenile court, for some technology and file changes as well as additional money for pre-trial services," said Berni.

But even with the budget approved for 2017, the council and the Landrieu administration are bracing for additional expenses related to the sheriff's office's operation of the Orleans Parish Prison.

"We got some bad news yesterday about how much it's going to cost us to run the jail next year that meant that about noon yesterday, there was a lot of scrambling to make sure we were tightening our belts sufficiently for 2017," said Councilman-at-Large Stacy Head.

It's an amount yet to be determined. Given the anticipated additional funding needs for the jail, the Landrieu Administration made sure the fund balance from this year was not depleted.

"We're still working through it," said Berni.

And that meant leaving some council members' priorities unfunded.

"I believe this is the best document we could have gotten in a democracy," said Councilman James Gray.

DA Leon Cannizzaro issued the following statement in response to his budget cut:

"The City Council voted to cut the budget of my office by $600,000.  Before this cut, the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office was one of the worst municipally funded prosecutor's offices in the state of Louisiana.  This cut will have a dramatic effect on securing public safety in a time when crime is steadily increasing.  I will attempt to minimize any effects on the citizens of this community.

"In a city where the NOPD and the Sheriff's office is under a consent decree and the Public Defenders' office is in federal litigation that may end with a consent decree, I question the wisdom of a City Council that would slash the budget of a law enforcement agency that is not only systemically underfunded but is also the only agency not operating under threat of federal intervention.  What is most mind boggling about the Council's decision is that they appear to be punishing my office on account of its aggressive prosecution of criminals."

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