On the Ballot

BGR backs New Orleans library tax proposal, opposes housing millage

By WDSU Digital Team

Source: WDSU

November 22, 2021

A nonpartisan policy group is split on its opinion of two tax proposals New Orleans voters will consider Dec. 11. The Bureau of Governmental Research issued a report Monday in which it supports a 20-year property tax that benefits the city’s library system and opposes a 20-year millage for housing.

The library tax proposition would extend a millage that has been in place since 1986 and a asks voters to approve up to 4 mills. It also expands the use of the tax for construction needs. Library officials say the current 2.58 mills being collected is adequate, and BGR encouraged the New Orleans City Council, which sets the millage rate, to maintain careful oversight of the tax proceeds.

BGR noted in its report that its decision to support the library millage was made after city’s library director resigned. Gabriel Morley’s abrupt departure earlier this month came after WWL-TV questioned his residency. Municipal employees are required to live within New Orleans city limits.

The 0.91-mill housing tax proposal would continue an existing tax and direct the revenue solely to the city’s Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund. Currently, the money is split between the housing fund and an economic development fund.

BGR pans the proposal because the city has not provided much detail on how it would use the tax money to address the most pressing housing needs.

“The absence of such a plan prevented further analysis of the appropriate size of the tax or its potential to effectively address New Orleans’ housing problems,” BGR said in its report. “While the city has used the expiring tax to fund some initiatives that evidence suggests have or will produce successful outcomes, BGR could not determine how much the city would direct to these or similar programs and initiatives.”

Both proposals are, in essence, a do-over for the Cantrell administration. Last December, voters rejected the mayor’s proposal to shuffle four existing taxes, including ones for the libraries and housing, to steer more money toward infrastructure and early childhood education. Opposition was most vocal from advocates of library, which stood to have a substantial portion of its revenue steered to other uses.

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