On the Ballot

New Orleans voters to consider property taxes for libraries, housing

By WDSU Digital Team

Source: WDSU

December 7, 2021

New Orleans voters will consider two property tax proposals Saturday, one dedicated to the city’s library system and the other for a key housing fund. Both are intended to replace existing millages that expired at the end of the year.

The library tax would allow the city to collect up to 4 mills. Library officials have based their 2022 budget on the current 2.58 mills being levied, and the New Orleans City Council would have to approve any increase in collections. In a change from the existing tax, the money could be used for the construction and expansion of library facilities

Library leaders have laid out a 10-year strategic plan detailing how they intend to use the tax proceeds. It includes expanding literacy and mobile programming as well as a new center to house equity and inclusion initiatives.

The proposed housing tax would keep the current 0.91-mill collection in place for 20 years. The chief difference is that, moving forward, revenue would be directed solely to the city’s Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund. The original tax was also meant to support economic development efforts.

For homeowners, the library tax would cost them $25.80 for every $100,000 of their home’s value above the homestead exemption. The housing tax would come to $9.10 per $100,000.

In 2020, the city cut the housing-economic development tax in half from the 1.82 it had collected and devoted the remaining 0.91 solely to housing. The Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund, which was created in 1991, has been used to help finance affordable housing developments, address blight and assist homeowners with critical repairs.

The Bureau of Governmental Research has come out in support of the library tax while opposing the housing tax proposal. In its report, BGR said it backs the library millage based on officials’ intent to continue collections at the current level. The independent policy analysis group attributed its opposition to the housing tax to what it called a lack of detail from the city with regards to accountability and planning.

BGR also noted the city did not answer its questions about past collections for the housing fund. Without that information, the group said it could not determine whether the city has used the tax proceeds solely for housing over the past two years.

Saturday’s tax proposals amount to a partial do-over for Mayor LaToya Cantrell. A year ago, she asked voters to consider a package of three taxes that would have directed more money to infrastructure needs and early childhood education. Part of the shuffle included reducing revenue for city libraries. All three measures failed.

A separate tax request for early childhood education will be on the ballot in April 2022.

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