Wednesday, November 7, 2012

City budget hearings day 1: "Morning Session" ends at 2 p.m.

Posted by on Wed, Nov 7, 2012 at 2:45 PM

"Not crisis, situation."

—Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson corrects her description of the New Orleans 2013 budget

It's 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 7, and New Orleans City Council has just completed its "morning." We are 4 hours into the city of New Orleans 2013 budget hearings, and council has completed exactly Municipal Participation Grants, which was scheduled to take two hours this morning. The grants represent a $4 million portion of the city's famous Department of Miscellaneous. That $4 million is bit less than 1/100 of the city's total budget for 2013.

So there's about a billion more of this-kind-of-mornings to go before we get to November 30, when after criticizing every part of it in great detail, the city council is scheduled to approve something that will likely be extremely similar to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's proposed budget.

A brief summary:

—The Orleans Parish Public Defenders office, which is looking at a 32 percent cut in its general fund allocation, from $1.2 million in 2012 to $800,000 in 2013. Chief defender Derwyn Bunton claims he will have to lay off 8 (more) attorneys because of the cut.

(More after the jump)

—The Louisiana SPCA, the city's animal control contractor, which will be cut from more than $1.9 million to less than $1.8 million. The SPCA is running a $300,000 operational deficit for this year, at the current funding level. Councilwoman Susan Guidry expressed strong reservations to this cut, noting that the city is in the midst of a four-year cooperative endeavor agreement with the organization.

—The LSU AgCenter, which received a $100,000 allocation (11 percent of its total budget) and is now being cut out of the city budget altogether. The cut could imperil New Orleans 4-H, so the group came with about 20 local students involved with 4-H.

—The New Orleans Council on Aging, which will retain its 2012 funding level and receive an extra $400,000 in community development block grants. Executive director Howard Rogers thanked the city for the funds but asked that city government help the group, which operates senior centers, find a sustainable source of funding. The Council on Aging receives most of its funding from the state government, and Rogers said it will almost certainly see state cuts next year. He is anticipating a reduction in services.

Which gets us to a recurring theme today. City government, and everybody who works with city government, is very unhappy with state government right now. Everyone. This is the one point of near-universal (if not universal) agreement in the City Council Chamber today.

Next up: The Afternoon Session and the Department of Safety and Permits

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