"We heard you loud and clear," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, addressing the New Orleans City Council Oct. 15 — referring to New Orleans residents who attended the citywide budget hearings to give 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 implementation, while the 5 percent pay raise for NOPD adds $4.2 million to the budget. Additional funding will help pay for 150 new recruits, and Civil Service is slated to receive a $312,000 boost to pay for recruiting support.
The Fraternal Order of Police wasted no time calling the proposed 5 percent pay hike for cops "a slap in the face" and inadequate. Jim Gallagher, an FOP spokesman, said in a statement, "Fortunately, the Civil Service Commission will review this budget and the City Council will have the final word, and we will make our voices heard."
In compliance with court orders to fully fund New Orleans firefighters' pension fund, the budget includes a 37 percent increase to that 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.) In Landrieu's overall budget, many departments' funding remains static from 2014 to 2015, but most will see an increase, with an overall 6 percent jump 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 an hour for city employees. The wage raise adds $596,000 to the budget.
City Council hearings on the budget begin Oct. 27.