In The News › Landrieu asks business group to review water agency’s books

Dec 16, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Infrastructure, Orleans Parish

Landrieu asks business group to review water agency’s books

He signals S&WB rate jump possible

Thursday, December 16, 2010
By Michelle Krupa
The Times-Picayune

In voting for a 2011 Sewerage & Water Board budget that officials admit doesn’t cover the cost of regular maintenance and other needs, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Wednesday said he has asked business leaders to review the agency’s books — and left open the door for tax or rate increases in the near future.

Landrieu said he wants business leaders, along with S&WB officials, to detail the agency’s needs before asking residents to foot the bill, much as his administration did before asking the City Council to approve property-tax and sanitation-fee increases.

The mayor said he was not “comfortable” with the 6.16-mill increase for 2011 that the water board proposed last month, saying that unlike with the 8.74-mill and $8 monthly sanitation fee increases he proposed, the S&WB didn’t “go out and talk to the public about it … and get public buy-in.”

“I think you’ve seen the people of New Orleans say, ‘If I believe what you’re telling me and you deliver what you say, I’m willing to give you the resources that you need to make the city better,’” Landrieu said.

“For so long, this city has been operating on a limited amount of revenue, and there’s been so much deferred maintenance on infrastructure,” he said. “It shouldn’t surprise anybody that we have huge unmet needs.”

The council approved a 7.74-mill increase and is expected next month to impose a $12 increase in the monthly sanitation fee. The S&WB proposal was killed.

Landrieu said he has asked Gary Solomon, a banker and former S&WB member, to lead an effort by the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region to review the water board’s finances and governance structure. Comprising influential executives, the private group is seen as a key player in debates about public financing.

“We’ve just got to be at a position to tell the community the big picture, exactly how much needs to be done,” Solomon said, adding that the process should take three to six months.

The working group, whose eight members include accountants, engineers and contractors, also will work to finalize outstanding S&WB requests to FEMA for payment for repairs related to Hurricane Katrina, he said. Solomon could not immediately provide a list of the members.

The group’s findings will be considered with similar reviews by the Bureau of Governmental Research and local chambers of commerce, Landrieu said.

Dec 16, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Infrastructure, Orleans Parish

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