"We heard you loud and clear," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu
, addressing the New Orleans City Council and New Orleans residents who attended the citywide budget hearings to deliver input on the city's 2015 budget. According to Landrieu, people want more funding for public safety, jobs, recreation and blight reduction.
Public safety budget increases dominate the proposed $537 million budget
, with calls for raises (the first in eight years), more recruits and new vehicles for the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), while 6 percent of the total budget is dedicated to the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office. More than $7 million from the city's general fund is dedicated to NOPD consent decree improvements, and the 5 percent pay raise for NOPD adds $4.2 million to the budget. Additional funding will help pay for 150 new recruits, while Civil Service is slated to receive a $312,000 boost to pay for recruiting support.
In compliance with pending litigation to fully fund the New Orleans Fire Department pension fund, the budget includes a 37 percent increase to the pension fund, totaling $43.4 million. (Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin
noted that the city will pay more in pension costs in 2015 than in firefighter salaries.)
"Make no mistake about this, we have a long way to go," Landrieu noted, adding that the budget also "is giving the sheriff more than what we gave in 2014," and that the Nov. 4 election ballot includes potentially $8 million in additional funds for mental health patients at Orleans Parish Prison. "I think it's a good budget, i think it moves us ahead," he said, noting that the city is on the road to its 300th anniversary in 2018.
In Landrieu's overall budget, many departments' funding remain static from 2014 to 2015, but most will see an increase, with an overall 6 percent increase from 2014's $505 million budget to 2015's proposed $537 million budget.
The Department of Public Works (DPW) will see a 48 percent budget increase from $15 million in 2014 to $23 million in 2015. Landrieu noted that in 2015, the city will start or complete $340 million in road and infrastructure work. Nearly $2 million has been added to DPW for street repairs, and $10 million from capital improvement millage will go to streetlight repairs, LED conversion and other infrastructure repairs.
For the first time in the city's history, Landrieu also is introducing paid maternity leave, as well as a minimum wage hike to $10.10 for city employees. The wage raise adds $596,000 to the budget.
City Council hearings on the budget begin Oct. 27.