Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
It's "Budgeting for Outcomes" season. And it has come early.
The annual City of New Orleans budget process begins with a series of community meetings in each City Council district, and they usually are held in late August. This year, the meetings begin next week.
The meetings intend to create a "resident-driven budget" by hearing from residents in each council district. Following last year's meetings on the $537 million 2015 budget, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said residents wanted more funding for public safety, job creation, recreation and blight reduction. "We heard you loud and clear," he said last October in his budget address to the City Council.
But the Committee For a Better New Orleans (CBNO) found that message may not have been clear enough. Its People's Budget New Orleans (PB NOLA) project gathered 60 people last fall to recreate a budget meeting process at Tulane City Center, but put residents in charge of exactly where the money went. (For example, Landrieu’s 2015 budget gives Orleans Parish Prison $28.5 million — 50 percent of participants said the sheriff is one of the three most over-funded departments, along with New Orleans Police Department, at 77 percent.)
“The difference in residents’ funding for the Sheriff’s Office from that of the administration shows the largest break in funding priorities in our activity,” the PB NOLA report reads. “Second to improved medical care for inmates, respondents listed improved transparency of the Sheriff’s Office as the second most common desire for spending in the Sheriff’s Office, a potential explanation for the strong desire to spend less tax money on the Sheriff’s Office."
More than half of the" budget summit" participants attended Landrieu's town hall meetings, and all of those participants said their input was not valued and that their voices were not reflected in the finished budget.
CBNO said a solution was clear: hold the budget meetings earlier.
City budget town hall meetings have been held each year since Landrieu took office, but they typically are held in August. This August, however, the city and groups citywide will be busy commemorating the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures.
Here's the full schedule of meetings:
Each meeting begins with a community resource fair at 5:30 p.m. with the meeting portion taking place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
6 p.m.-8 p.m. Monday, July 13
Beacon Light International Baptist Cathedral (1937 Mirabeau Ave.)
6 p.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday, July 14
Alice M. Harte Charter School (5300 Berkley Drive)
6 p.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday, July 15
KIPP Central City Academy (2514 Third St.)
Meetings then pick up later this month...
6 p.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, July 30
Lakeview Christian Center (5885 Fleur De Lis Drive)
... and then in August:
6 p.m.-8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10
Andrew P. Sanchez & Copelin-Byrd Multi-Service Center (1616 Caffin Ave.)