Kenner council approves new budget, 2-year brake tags, CarMax store plans _lowres

Associated Press photo by LM OTERO -- A CarMax salesman talks with a customer at the company's Plano, Texas, used car dealership in this 2014 file photo.

The Kenner City Council on Thursday approved a $161 million operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that makes few changes to the current year’s spending plan.

The council also voted to begin offering city residents the option of two-year brake tags in 2017, and it authorized the used-car retailing giant CarMax to build the company’s first New Orleans-area store on a group of vacant lots just southeast of the Esplanade Mall.

Acting Mayor Mike Sigur said the 2016-17 budget will be slightly larger than its $160.4 million predecessor because of a modest increase in revenues driven by retail sales at Louis Armstrong International Airport. But he said the extra revenue will be needed to cover higher pension obligations, health insurance costs and a small raise for municipal employees, leaving officials no flexibility to make any significant modifications to how the city operates.

The council also ratified a budget of about $2 million for infrastructure improvements, using money largely generated by the Treasure Chest Casino.

Sigur said about half of the capital budget is for matching funds that the city owes toward road projects paid for in partnership with the federal government. The rest is allocated to various improvements and pieces of equipment, such as new vehicles, computer upgrades and roof repairs at the city-owned Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts.

The brake tag vote will make it possible for all Kenner residents eventually to avoid renewing their vehicle inspection sticker annually, as long as their cars are less than 10 years old and weigh less than 10,000 pounds.

Vehicle owners with brake tags expiring in January, March, May, July, September or November 2017 will be able to obtain two-year, $20 stickers starting next year.

Those with brake tags expiring in February, April, June, August, October or December 2017 will have to wait until 2018. Those drivers still will need to get a one-year, $10 brake tag extension in the meantime.

Officials said they couldn’t make two-year brake tags available to everyone at once because of staffing and space limitations at the city’s vehicle inspection station at 1904 24th St.

Most Louisiana drivers already have the option of getting two-year brake tags. Kenner was an exception because its independent brake tag program predated the state’s.

The CarMax vote clears the way for the company to spend about $25 million building a dealership, service center and private car wash on roughly 16 acres whose general boundaries are 32nd Street, Connecticut Avenue, Interstate 10 and the Duncan Canal.

The store is expected to create some 200 full-time jobs while boosting city sales and property tax revenues, though it might not open until 2018 because construction will require lengthy preparation.

At present, CarMax’s only Louisiana store is in Baton Rouge.