NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - To meet the Dec. 1 City Charter deadline for approving a balanced budget for operating city government in the new year the five city council members who were present for a rare Friday meeting unanimously approved an operating budget of $646.3 million and a capital budget of $691.4 million.
It is the final budget under Mayor Mitch Landrieu and some members of the council who are also term-limited.
"We're absolutely proud of this final budget. This budget we've been working on, of course, for several months since earlier this summer and it really takes in to account the vast-majority of what we had from the council as things they wanted to see in the budget, as well as other things that the mayor saw as a priority. Public safety, investing more in public safety, investing more in infrastructure, investing more in housing," said Jeff Hebert, Chief Administrative Officer and Deputy Mayor.
The operating budget includes $1.5 million to boost pay for low-wage city workers.
"Over 500 employees who were under that $24,000 or less threshold and we'll be doing a 10-percent raise there which will bring the average for the lowest paid employees in the city to about $27,000," said Ryan Berni, another deputy mayor in the Landrieu administration.
For a number of years now, any haggling between the administration and council members over what the final version of the budget should look like happens ahead of the day the council takes it votes on the budget.
"It has been a true pleasure to work with the folks at this dais to get what I think is a humongous result for the people of this community," said Councilman-at-Large Jason Williams.
"Other city hall staff that have not received a raise in nine years still deserve to be compensated adequately and we're going to be working towards that," said City Councilwoman and Mayor-Elect Latoya Cantrell.
The public also includes money for public safety agencies including over $9 million for police officer pay increases.
"Which is their fourth pay raise over the last few years," said Berni.
The budget also includes $3 million to raise salaries at the Orleans Criminal Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Marlin Gusman has complained often about a high turnover rate of sheriff's deputies.
And there is $3.1 million for the cleaning of city catch basins which aid the city's drainage system.
The new budget also includes $750,000 in support of early childhood education initiatives. Some members of the public rose to applaud the council for including that money.
"This is a huge victory for our community's most at risk and vulnerable children," said one resident.
The council met the deadline for passing a balanced budget after approving a number of amendments. And because council members had a bevy of amendments to the spending plan offered by Mayor Landrieu and there are applicable public notice requirements the fully amended 2018 budget will be revisited the middle of this month to cover added revenues and expenditures.
"The December 14th amendments will take in, first of all, the revenue coming from the World Trade Center agreement and then the additional $33-million from that which will fund all the other things that we went through in the council today. on vehicles, more vehicles for the NOPD, new ambulances, all those things will come from out of that which will be recognized on December 14th," Hebert stated.
Council members James Gray and Nadine Ramsey were absent for the vote.