Though Mayor Mitch Landrieu hasn't announced any tax increases as part of his proposed $592.7 million city budget for 2016, one fee increase could put more than $4 million in the city's coffers. Under Landrieu's proposal, parking meter rates will rise to $3 an hour in the French Quarter and CBD and to $2 an hour in other neighborhoods. Current parking rates are $1.50 an hour. Pay-to-park hours, currently 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., would stretch for four more hours, meaning drivers would have to feed the meter between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
The parking fee increase is part of a budget that's $50 million higher than the 2015 budget — and nearly $100 million more than the 2010 budget. The city also is on the hook for millions of dollars to pay New Orleans firefighters in an ongoing battle over pensions — and then there's funding the new jail, two consent decrees and committing to a well-funded criminal justice system, new infrastructure, pay raises and new hires within the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) to combat the city's ongoing crime issues.
NOPD is set to be funded at $140 million, an 8 percent ($10.5 million) budget increase from 2015, and $31 million more than it received six years ago.
"Fighting crime and making the city safe is always our No. 1 priority," Landrieu said. NOPD's budget increase includes 15 percent pay raises, compliance measures with the federal consent decree and ongoing recruitment efforts, including training 150 new officers.
Landrieu also promoted "Operation Relentless Pursuit," his recently unveiled crime-fighting umbrella strategy that includes funding $11 million in "unlimited" overtime for NOPD — the "equivalent of adding 100 officers to the force," he said. More than $100 million in the city's capital budget will fund new construction and other NOPD infrastructure.
The leaner years have allowed the city to use its "carefully saved pennies," Landrieu said, adding that New Orleans now has less blight and more retail and new industries.
"This means even more jobs, more business, more revenue and more public investment," he said, saying we are "a city of peace and a stronger, more resilient New Orleans."
The New Orleans City Council will schedule budget hearings for city departments from Oct. 26 to Nov. 12, when department heads and accountants will outline budget needs and petition for some changes. The city's proposed 2016 budget is available at www.nola.gov/mayor/budget.