Monday, October 29, 2012

Budget 2013: No cuts in police, fire, EMS; Mayor proposes water shutoffs for delinquent trash bills

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 4:16 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu's $491 million proposed budget for 2013, about $5 million less than the adopted 2012 budget, with average cuts of 8 to 10 percent citywide. Police, fire and EMS, however, will see budget increases of 5 to 10 percent.

"Cuts have consequences. And these cuts will hurt," he said. "We are always working to do more with less, but in many instances, we will have to do less with less."

To help boost revenue next year, Landrieu is proposing that City Council amend city code to allow the Sewerage and Water Board to cut off water services to customers who haven't paid sanitation fees for trash service. (Overdue sanitation fees have reportedly cost the city millions as well as repeatedly making the newspaper upset.) S&WB is now able to shut off water for failure to pay water bills but not the trash fee.

"You said you wanted more enforcement. I’m asking the city council for the authority to collect what is owed from people who will not pay," Landrieu said.

Landrieu has also proposed an additional 2 percent Entergy franchise fee to fund streetlight repairs.

(More after the jump)

Landrieu, along with Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin, repeatedly criticized state government for "failing to live up to its obligations" to the city.

"The State can’t seem to get it together. Look at the unprecedented and massive cuts to higher education and health care, over 400 jobs lost at LSU Medical Center, millions in state funds taken from Delgado, University of New Orleans and Southern," Landrieu said. "Let me be clear, this path of austerity will not lead to success. It will not make us stronger. It’s outrageous, but all we see in the near future is more, deep cuts, and some even with life and death consequences."

Asked whether the many events the city is hosting next year, including the Super Bowl are projected to significantly improve current revenue estimates, Landrieu said no, noting that only a small portion of hotel-motel and sales taxes go to the city's general fund. While he said the city pursues tourism because of its value to the local economy, tourism tax revenue largely goes to the state.

"We can't host our way out of a budget crisis," Landrieu said.

Actual operations spending will be about $477 million. $13 million of the overall operations budget will go to the city's fund balance to cover lingering debt left from 2010. That debt was projected to have been eliminated by now except for lower-than-anticipated revenues during the past two years. The city hopes to get the fund balance from just above zero next year to 2 percent of anticipated revenue, or about $11 million, by 2014.

Departmental cuts will affect personnel levels, Landrieu said, but he added, the city hopes to achieve them through attrition, rather than layoffs. Asked how many positions may need to be reduced, Kopplin said he wasn't sure and would leave that up to departments, who will present their budgets to City Council beginning Nov. 7.

The proposed 2013 budget shows a reduction of nearly 200 General Fund full-time slots, from about 3,926 in 2012 to 3,740 next year. (This year's budget book, however, shows that the City Council 2012 adopted budget originally called for 3,800 full-time slots.)

2013 budget documents are available on the city's web site.

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