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City budget hearings kick off 

Property tax collections to increase

  The annual marathon of New Orleans city agencies' budget presentations kicked off Oct. 23 and will continue through next month until the New Orleans City Council approves the 2014 municipal budget. The opening act: a presentation on the city's tax revenue, which funds a large part of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's $504 million budget.

  Though the city's property tax rate will remain the same, the city estimates collections will increase. City Council Vice President Stacy Head said property taxpayers are "overburdened," with a smaller population paying 38 percent more than it did in 2005 — a collections rate that has steadily increased from $112 million in 2013 to a proposed $115 million in 2014, compared to $83 million in 2005.

  City officials also noted that the city is in debt for millions of dollars to pay off Department of Housing and Urban Development funds for commercial developments, including the abandoned Jazzland theme park and the Grand Palace Theater, both of which still owe back loans while the properties rot in eastern New Orleans.

  The city's revenue department also estimates $56 million in 2014 for licenses and permits, down from $57 million in 2013. Another falling revenue source: brake tags, which have seen a 1.5 percent annual decline since 2010. — ALEX WOODWARD

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