Mayor to host calls on 2018 budget plans

Throughout his time in office, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has held town hall meetings every year in each City Council district as his administration prepared its budget for the coming year.

Those meetings, which could draw hundreds of citizens, provided a rare opportunity for the general public to address the mayor directly on almost any topic.

But this year, with the budget-making schedule compressed, those five meetings will be replaced with two conference calls this week. While still open to the public, the calls will provide a more controlled environment.

And with the unveiling of the spending plan just a couple of weeks away, it remains to be seen whether any feedback from the calls will make its way into the final document.

In the past, Landrieu, like previous mayors, presented his budget in the fall, generally in mid-October in recent years. However, with the new schedule for municipal elections placing the primary this year on Oct. 14, the term-limited Landrieu will present his final budget on July 31.

Administration officials have said the decision to move up the schedule was aimed at preventing the budget from becoming a political football during the elections.

The City Council has not announced its schedule for reviewing and adopting the 2018 budget, but it apparently intends to complete the process before the primary, in which most of the members are candidates for their current or higher offices. The deadline for adopting a budget is Dec. 1. 

It has never been clear how much the community meetings actually affected the spending plan the administration presented each year, but the shortened budget schedule will likely make any changes even more difficult.

The conference call focused on council Districts A, B and C will start at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Residents of Districts D and E will have their call at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Those interested in listening or participating can sign up at vekeo.com/mayorlandrieu/ to get a call when the event starts that will connect them to the conference call. The site will also allow people to stream the call through their browser, according to the administration.

Participants will be able to ask questions or provide comments by dialing *3 while on the call or through a form on the website, according to the city.

Williams pulls request to sue oil companies

City Councilman Jason Williams last week announced, then pulled back, a resolution asking Mayor Mitch Landrieu to sue oil and gas companies for damage to Louisiana's wetlands.

The resolution would have called on Landrieu to join a half-dozen parishes that have sued the energy industry in recent years, a move that has had the support of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

But even though he planned to present the measure at Thursday’s City Council meeting, Williams withdrew it at the last minute, apparently because not all of his colleagues were ready to go forward.

The resolution would urge but not force the administration to file a lawsuit.

In an interview prior to his final State of the City speech, in which he presented a plan to address the “existential threat” of climate change, Landrieu said he has not made up his mind about whether to add New Orleans to the list of local governments that are suing the oil and gas companies.

Landrieu said he expects to make a decision on whether to file suit before his term is up next year.

Time for owners to challenge assessments

New Orleans property owners who want to contest the assessment on their property with the Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office may do so starting Monday.

Assessor Erroll Williams said the tax rolls will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 15.  

Property owners may visit any of the office’s three locations: the fourth floor of City Hall, 1300 Perdido St.; the first floor of the Algiers Courthouse, 225 Morgan St.; or the second floor of the Lakeview Christian Center, 5885 Fleur De Lis Drive. 

No appointments are necessary; individuals will be assisted on a first-come, first-serve basis at all the locations.

Visiting with the staff of the Assessor’s Office at one of those locations is regarded as an “informal appeal.” Property owners may bypass this step and, starting next week, file a formal appeal with the Orleans Parish Board of Review online. The City Council serves as the parish Board of Review. 

To file an appeal online at nolaassessor.com, click the e-file link on the left side of the home page and then click Appeal of Taxable Valuation. This link will be operational from July 24 through Aug. 18.

“You do not dispute the property assessment because you think your taxes are too high. That is a discussion to take up with the taxing authorities,” Williams said. “You should see me because you think the value placed on your property is inaccurate due to estimations on its size, comparable sales or market values.”

To contest an assessment value, property owners are advised to have their assessment letter and any documentation to support their claim, such as a recent appraisal, a builder’s contract, photos or insurance coverage of the property.

Compiled by Jeff Adelson and Bruce Eggler