Cantrell doubles down, responds to criticism against bond and tax propositions

New Orleans Infrastructure Ballot Initiatives

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -November 16th, New Orleans residents will vote on three different propositions, all that would allow the city to use those dollars to improve local infrastructure.

“This touches basic civics services, and if we want a better quality of life it really does take voting for these measures,” said Mayor Latoya Cantrell.

Cantrell and her administration have pushed hard for residents to vote yes for all three, but FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman says there’s a good chance voters may say no.

“This is a difficult year to raise taxes we just had new assessments come out and although assessments aren’t a tax increase, it still could hit property owners in the pocketbook. This is a difficult year to raise taxes, but these are things that are popular with voters infrastructure spending chief among them,” said Sherman.

The first proposition would allow the city to issue up to $500 million in bonds to fund improvements to city streets and drainage.

The second: a new 3-mill property tax. The funds which would go specifically towards the city’s maintenance fund so the city can maintain infrastructure and buy vehicles and equipment.

The third: a new tax on visitors booking short-term rentals in the city.

“We’re wanting to right the ship and put us on financial stability plan for the future of the city,” said Cantrell. The Bureau of Governmental Research has come out in support of all three propositions, but also pointed out some weaknesses namely that they lack specificity in how and where the money would be spent.

Cantrell says in proposals, they've already targeted the most serious projects, and will also look to the city council in helping make those decisions.

“At the top of the list is absolutely drainage, sewer, roads, the streets, potholes, what people have said is their top priority in addition to making sure that facilities, for example we’ve seen investment since Katrina, but we don’t have any dollar to maintain them,” said Cantrell.

In terms of assuring the public her administration will responsibly spend that money, she says they hope to install some sort of online dashboard that would allow the public to see how and where they’re spending the money. She also believes the city’s recent upgrade in its credit rating is proof of that accountability.

“Sound, financial practices that’s what we are rated on and that’s what will continue to do,” said Cantrell.

“The mayor coming out saying there's going to be data-driven decision making and analytics to support how it's being used, it's a difficult sell to voters but it's her way in trying to allay BGR’s concerns,” said Sherman.

The BGR’s recommendations do not take into account a possible roll-forward of the property taxes in the city, especially after many saw high property assessments.

Cantrell says she continues to support a roll-forward, and says without it the city will have trouble meeting basic needs.

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