An effort to create additional property taxes to help pay for fire and police protection in Orleans Parish is likely to be discussed during the annual session of the state Legislature, which convenes this week. A similar constitutional amendment was introduced last year, too, but never moved to a vote.
House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, originally filed the proposed amendment to address an increase in expenses anticipated from a federal consent decree against the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). He said he wanted the bill in place last year in case the consent decree was handed down.
His House Bill 290 has been introduced again this year for the same reason, with the consent decree expected in the coming days or weeks. If approved by the Legislature and then by voters on Nov. 4, 2014, the amendment would allow an additional two mills to be levied citywide — one for fire protection and one for police protection. The constitution already allows five mills each for police and fire protection — not subject to the homestead exemption. The additional mills also would not be subject to the homestead exemption.
At a City Council meeting last month, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the NOPD consent decree could bring with it $55 million in mandates, the federal government's response to civil rights abuses. Complicating matters further, Landrieu says a separate consent decree against the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office could simultaneously be implemented, prompting further budget problems. Landrieu, once a backer of the sheriff's consent decree, is now balking at the cost and what he says is mismanagement by Sheriff Marlin Gusman. — Jeremy Alford