BGR weighs in on 3 Orleans Parish tax proposals

Updated: Oct. 29, 2019 at 2:46 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - In 2-1/2 weeks New Orleans voters will be asked to consider three new tax measures that city officials say, would generate more than $520 million a year for capital improvements and infrastructure needs. The Bureau of Governmental Research came out Tuesday (Oct. 29) in support of all three, but said public oversight will be crucial

One measure calls for $500 million in new bonds to be issued, with $250 million going to drainage and streets and $225 million going for public facilities.

The BGR says the city has a $5.8 billion funding gap, when it comes to road, and drainage needs, and the new bonds could go a long way toward making repairs, without increasing taxes citizens pay.

"There has been a reduction in the millage that supports the city's bonding capacity, and this bond obligation takes advantage of that reduction," said Amy Glovinsky, with the Bureau of Governmental Research.

Another measure on the upcoming ballot, calls for a new three-mill, 20-year property tax that would send $12 million a year to infrastructure, public facilities and vehicles, like ambulances. Right now, the city says about 20% of it ambulance fleet needs to be replaced, due in part to increased calls for service.

"In 2014 we had 53, 000 calls for service, and in 2019, we're projecting up to 71,000," said Emily Nicholls, with New Orleans EMS.

Though this second measure is a new millage...the BGR says it's not likely to necessitate any new tax burden for citizens.

"There was a reduction in the city's debt service millage, so the millage reduced by three mills," said Glovinsky.

When it comes to accountability, BGR says the city has mechanisms in place to try and make sure the money is probably spent.

“In our conversations with the city they said they will create a dashboard so citizens can account for specific uses of the taxes,” said Glovinsky.

But the BGR says the city needs to offer more safeguards.

"We have called for in our position increased accountability to make sure the funds they get from this tax, goes toward achieving the outcomes, they have said they can achieve," said Glovinsky.

The request for the new tax measures comes on the heels of a recent BGR report that shows Medicaid reimbursement to the city have increased dramatically with some of those reimbursements intended to offset ambulance costs, but the BGR says that's a separate discussion, and it says for now, the city has vehicle repair needs that have to be immediately addressed.

The $500 million bond proposition calls for $25 million to be spent on affordable housing.

BGR is also supporting a third tax measure on the November ballot. It calls for a new 6.75% tax on short term rentals. That money would be allocated for sewerage and water board infrastructure, and the department of public works.

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