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Funding the stacks 

Council to call election for property tax increase

  The New Orleans City Council unanimously passed Mayor Mitch Landrieu's $536 million 2015 budget Nov. 20 after two weeks of hearings and debate. Despite its plea for a slice of the city's general fund, the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL) won't receive any additional city funding in 2015. But New Orleans voters likely will decide at the polls whether they approve of a new property tax to get NOPL out of its budget hole.

  On Nov. 10, head librarian Charles Brown presented NOPL's $12.5 million 2015 budget, warning of a budget shortfall and drained reserves. While a dedicated millage adds $9.5 million to NOPL's coffers, the millage only covers personnel costs. The library's reserve fund is at $7.2 million. It was tapped for $3 million in 2014, and Brown anticipates taking out another $3 million in 2015. He predicts NOPL's reserves — without other sources of revenue — will be empty by 2016.

  On Nov. 10, District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell asked Brown whether a budget boost of $1 million would help float NOPL through 2015 as the council works on a permanent budget fix. On Nov. 20, Cantrell said she fought for $200,000 to help NOPL hire a grant writer and keep essential services. That budget boost didn't happen, and Council President Stacy Head suggested the City Council vote on calling an election for a property tax increase in 2015.

  At the Nov. 20 meeting, council members agreed to call an election for a new property tax to add a dedicated revenue to the NOPL budget. The council anticipates the hike to be 2.5 to 3.5 mills.

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