While most of the discussion about the April 9 tax election has concerned the new public safety tax proposition, there actually are two items on that ballot for New Orleans voters.
The second is a plan for the city to issue 30-year bonds for streets, parks and firefighting equipment. Payments on the $120 million raised would be financed by an existing millage for bond issues; Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration refinanced existing bonds and freed up money it says is sufficient to pay the bonds off over time.
A guide to the upsides and downsides of the bond issue, seemingly “free” money, is available from the indispensable work of the Bureau of Governmental Research, www.bgr.org. Despite some reservations, BGR is for the bond issue because of the “abysmal” condition of New Orleans streets, where most of the money will be spent.
It is nevertheless new city debt and will have to be paid off with part of the existing millage for city bond issues.
The money would cover street work that is not eligible for the big new award for repairs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA money can be used for streets damaged by storms, but local money is needed for other streets.
It would make little sense to rebuild a FEMA-eligible stretch of pavement and then fail to connect it with another FEMA-eligible street because there is no city money to work on the intervening stretch.
We believe the Landrieu administration has done a good job of street repairs with money that is restricted by FEMA rules and other limits on various sources of funding. But there are inevitably going to be streets where the federal money can’t be used.
As BGR said, this new money would help provide a “holistic” approach to the street grid repairs. We urge voters to approve the bond issue.