NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - New Orleans residents will decide whether to raise property taxes for the next 20 years in November. It comes after the city council unanimously agreed on a resolution to send the measure to voters.
Council members faced strongly worded questions from their constituents before passing a resolution requiring voters to decide whether to raise property taxes.
"Frankly, I don't have a cushion to be able to provide this direct form of financing to be able to address this," said New Orleans CAO Gilbert Montaño.
Montaño says there is not enough money in the general fund to adequately address the city's infrastructure and public safety needs. The three mill levy proposed for the November ballot would last 20 years and generate $10.25 million, annually. Montaño says approximately three quarters would go towards infrastructure.
"Storm prevention, catch basin cleaning, all the things we worry about daily," said Montaño.
He says the other quarter would go towards replacing what he calls a depleted fleet of emergency vehicles.
"This is not going to overhead, to staff, to retirement systems. This is specifically for our front-line officers, EMS workers and firefighters to address their needs," Montaño explained.
NOFD Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell says most major cities have vehicle rotation programs, where they switch out units regularly, but that hasn't been the case here.
“You may not replace your vehicle until your repair costs get to be too much and you go, ‘well, geez, for what I’m spending on repairs, I could pay a new one,’ right? And we are kind of hitting that point with this portion of the fleet. The new, nine vehicles are doing fantastic, but that older portion of the fleet,” said McConnell. “Sometimes we have so many vehicles down, we haven’t been where we haven’t had a spare.”
NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson says his department is feeling the strain, too, including officers in the unit that combats violent crime.
"They have to pair up instead of responding directly to the scene. Sometimes they have to meet somewhere and pair up and then respond to the scene and respond to the various situations we have throughout our city because we, frankly, just do not have enough vehicles for them to do their job efficiently and effectively," Ferguson explained.
"As far as public safety, that's a big issue right now so, I would vote in favor of it," said New Orleans resident Dee Winchester.
We spoke to New Orleans locals who say, if the tax is going to cost $40 more for a $200,000 home with a homestead exemption, like the administration says, they’d be willing to vote “yes”.
"I think we do need help with infrastructure, for sure, and public safety is always an issue so, yeah, I'd be more than happy to vote for it," resident Edward Johnson said.
Others say they want proof the money is going where the city says it is.
The proposal will be on the ballot Saturday, November 16, and would go into effect January 1, 2020.