Landrieu proposes hiring more police, higher NOPD pay and a rainy-day fund

Landrieu talks more police, higher NOPD pay, rainy day fund during his final budget address

Mayor Mitch Landrieu went before the City Council Monday to present his final budget proposal for the city.

"I look forward to working with you over the next 280 days to do what we have been doing, to begin today by passing our eighth balanced budget," Landrieu said.

He is proposing a $647 million operating budget and a proposed capital improvement or construction budget of $691 million.

He said the operating budget is in line with public safety remaining his top priority.

"In 2018, we're proposing a third pay raise for NOPD through the new pay plan. That's going to boost recruitment and retention of officers," Landrieu stated.

Landrieu said better equipment is part of the equation.

"We have purchased and have on the way 300 new police cars for our officers to take home for visibility and the fire department will be receiving 21 new fire trucks," he said.

Looking on as the mayor spoke was NOPD Supt. Michael Harrison.

"There's a $9 million pay raise that we're giving our officers because we're restructuring the department," said Harrison.

Specifically, the proposed budget funds 150 additional officers.

"Response times are always tied to manpower…You heard us talk about new cars that we're buying, cars that have been fixed, all of that together helps with response times," Harrison continued.

Landrieu said he has kept a promise to himself to make sure the next mayor takes over a city government with a better financial status than he inherited almost eight years ago.

"I'd like to thank you for what I believe is an amazing job that you and your team have done with fiscal and financial stewardship of this city. What you said you came into an overstatement of the problems," said Councilman-at-Large Stacy Head, who is winding down her chairmanship of the city council budget committee.

Landrieu also wants to put before voters in November a proposed change to the city charter that would create a rainy-day fund for city government.

"Today our financial house is strong and we have gone from a deficit to a fund balance, but one thing we have always lacked is a source of funding in times of emergency, and we have more than our share. So to that end we are proposing that those funds be used to establish the first-ever rainy-day fund, this would seek to set aside five percent of the general fund," said the mayor.

"It's a great idea, but it's a question of priorities and whether or not we're going to be in a position to do it given the pressing needs that we have," said District E City Councilman James Gray.

Gray added that such a mandate for setting aside money could also constrain future leaders.

"To build it into the charter, really to take it out of the hands of future councils and future mayors. That concept alone is when one that some people are going to struggle with, but I don't know where we're going to end up, even in terms of what this council is going to do," said Gray.

Landrieu pledged to keep working hard for the city until he leaves office.

"We'll leave it all on the field, I assure you and we will finish strong," he said.

The mayor presented the budget earlier than normal. He said that was done to ensure a smooth transition for the new mayor.

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