Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration is adding $7.8 million to the city’s budget for the current year, with half of the money going to the New Orleans Police Department and the rest to be used to help satisfy court orders directing the city to improve conditions at Orleans Parish Prison and to meet the city’s obligations to the Fire Department’s sagging pension fund.
The $4 million that will be dedicated to the NOPD had been in the original budget the City Council adopted last fall, but it was stripped out last month because it was viewed as “surplus.” The city has been trying to recruit new cops, but the NOPD’s ranks have been shrinking faster than new officers can be hired and trained, meaning the department’s budget had extra money in it.
The restored money will allow the department to buy a range of supplies, according to the Landrieu administration: 100 new vehicles, 50 in-car cameras, 100 body cameras, 150 desktop computers, plus software, servers and other technological equipment.
Of the remaining $3.8 million, $2.6 million will go to the Fire Department to help pay the city’s pension obligations and $1.2 million will go to Sheriff Marlin Gusman to cover the costs of housing mentally ill Orleans Parish Prison inmates at the state’s Elayn Hunt Correctional Center.
The administration attributed the cash infusion to new retail stores and the city’s “more aggressive collection efforts.”
Last month, the city raided the police budget to help pay two big bills that were not included in the 2014 budget. The administration transferred $2 million of the NOPD money to the sheriff to help pay for court-ordered jail reforms and $2 million to the Fire Department for pension-related costs.
The city must pay an undetermined number of millions of dollars as part of a federal consent decree requiring the sheriff to increase the number of guards and improve the treatment of inmates at Orleans Parish Prison.
The city also is on the hook for as much as $17.5 million in court-ordered back payments to the New Orleans Firefighters Pension and Relief Fund. The city has not made full monthly payments to the fund since Landrieu became mayor in 2010.