New Orleans Council on Aging hopeful despite vote failure

Updated: Apr. 1, 2019 at 8:33 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A last-ditch effort at the polls for a property tax to benefit elderly services fell flat Saturday (March 30).

City Councilman Jason Williams sponsored the measure and posted on his Facebook page in the days prior to the election, saying the elderly deserve to be lifted up in their golden years.

However, voters ruled against the millage with 71 percent of the vote.

Howard Rodgers, the executive director with the New Orleans Council on Aging, said as hopeful as he was to have an estimated $6.6 million injection of revenue to their $5 million a year budget, the voters have spoken

“Yea, I was kind of disheartened when it failed but we gave it the ole college try,” Rodgers said.

Still, Rodgers said more and more people need their services every day.

“The need is there. Everybody gets old, and not everybody needs help, but some people need help, and they’ll call us,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers said he hoped the money would go towards simply helping to feed the elderly through their meals on wheels program. He said people have died while on the waiting list, a list that now has more than 1,200 names on it.

“We know that we have this waiting list, and we’re trying to help those people on there, but unfortunately we don’t have the funds,” Rodgers said.

The millage didn’t go without scrutiny. The Bureau of Governmental Research advised voters against it, saying the funds are needed, but the way the proposition was written gave city leaders too much spending freedom. Mayor Latoya Cantrell also spoke out against it, saying it would increase taxes for all homeowners, including seniors.

Rodgers said if he had the chance to do it all over again, he’d hope for a better-written proposal and a better-advertised effort.

“We are here advocating for the elderly population in the city of New Orleans and we hope maybe we’ll get another shot in the future, or hope we’ll come up with another funding plan, or the city will come up with a funding plan to assist us to get rid of this wait list,” Rodgers said.

In a statement, Williams said he “will continue to fight for seniors," and affirmed his commitment to finding "ways to close the gaps in funding for crucial programs.”

As for what those changes look like, that remains to be seen.

However, Rodgers said they have no option but to continue to help New Orleans’ elderly, and hope more funds come sooner rather than later.

“There’s no use in crying in your soup," Rodgers said. “Just keep on keeping on.”

Rodgers said they’ve had ongoing conversations with Cantrell’s office about securing more funding. However, Cantrell’s office has not responded to requests about what these efforts look like.

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