In The News › Government watchdog endorses $120M bond proposal, 7.5 mill public safety tax hike

Government watchdog endorses $120M bond proposal, 7.5 mill public safety tax hike

By Robert McClendon | The Times-Picayune

March 18, 2016

The Bureau of Governmental Research this week endorsed a pair of ballot initiatives that would permit the city to issue $120 million in bonds and raise property taxes dedicated to public safety by a combined 7.5 mills, generating about $26.6 million annually.

The watchdog group has panned recent tax increases, including ones for the library system and the Audubon park network, and its endorsement of these two proposals was not without qualms, but the think tank said they are, on the whole, warranted.

Many of the financial issues facing the city are beyond its control, the report said, and public safety and infrastructure needs justify the additional debt and taxes.

Funding for the $120 million bond issue will come out of an existing 25.5-mill tax for debt service.

The public safety ballot initiative would raise a property tax levy for police by 5 mills and one for firefighters by 2.5 mills. Both millages are exempt from homestead exemption.

The $17.7 million yielded by the police millage would be used to attract, equip and pay new recruits as the city struggles to increase the department’s ranks to 1,600. The $8.9 million per year for the Fire Department would help cover pension payments and other costs related to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s settlement with the firefighters union, which exchanged the payment of back-pay for concessions on retirement benefits.

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