BGR Report Recommends “YES” Vote on Park Millage
By Jenn Bentley
Source: Big Easy Magazine
April 10, 2019
On April 9, 2019, the independent Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) released a report on the May 4 tax proposal that would replace three existing property taxes for parks and recreation with a single property tax at the same rate.
A vote approving the millage would not result in a tax increase for residents. Instead, the BGR found that the 20-year replacement tax would provide funding for more parks and balance the way that money for parks is distributed to the city’s four park agencies. While the Audubon Commission would receive $4.4 million less in yearly tax revenue, it would have more freedom to apply that revenue to any of its facilities. NORDC’s share would increase by $1.4 million, and Parks and Parkways share would increase by $1 million.
The measure would also provide City Park with its first-ever property tax funding in the amount of $2 million. This would help the park stabilize its budget and enhance its facilities.
The proposed change is the result of a 2017 study which found that park management agencies in New Orleans are not coordinating well with each other and that they are receiving inadequate funding to sustain and grow the number of playgrounds, parks, and recreation facilities in the city. If approved, not only would the measure rebalance how property tax revenue is distributed to the park management agencies, it would create a 20-year cooperative endeavor agreement between them. This would pave the way for enhanced cooperation as well as more public accountability for how each agency is spending its tax revenue.
The BGR recommended that voters approve the measure, saying:
New Orleans’ parks and recreation facilities support citizens’ quality of life. They also draw many visitors from around the region and beyond. But the existing property taxes fund too narrow a range of entities and purposes. The proposition gives voters a chance to rebalance the tax revenue. It emerged from a process that evaluated and prioritized agency needs. Without increasing taxes, the millage would provide greater funding to New Orleans Recreation Development Commission and the City’s Department of Parks and Parkways, helping them to improve their services and programs. It would provide City Park with its first-ever property tax revenue, helping to stabilize its budget and enhance park amenities. And it would enable the Audubon Commission to retain a smaller but more flexible source of revenue for its Zoo, Aquarium, and other facilities. In addition to rebalancing tax revenue, voter approval of the proposition would put into effect an agreement among the park agencies and the City intended to foster greater planning, coordination, and public accountability.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell seemed pleased with the BGR’s recommendation. In a statement issued yesterday, Cantrell stated “The new BGR report is independent confirmation of what we’ve been saying all along: The Parks Millage is good governance in action. This is what it looks like when we come together when our people get their fair share — and when we are intentional about how we allocate the resources and the revenue that are already there. This millage adjustment is about creating more equitable access and more opportunities for our residents, without any additional expense.”
Early voting for the millage runs from April 20 to April 27, with the regular vote taking place on Saturday, May 4.
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