The Housing Authority of New Orleans has its first official budget since returning to local control in July.
The agency’s new board of directors on Thursday adopted a budget that anticipates spending $268.2 million in the coming fiscal year. Revenue is projected at $272.2 million, down by about 7 percent from the current year as congressional appropriations for affordable housing continue to be cut.
HANO generates revenue from a variety of sources, including federal housing vouchers, tenants’ rent, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, grants and interest income.
The agency’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1. It must submit its budget to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development before that date.
The greatest expense is the Section 8 voucher program, which assists with rent payments for 17,663 households. HANO expects to spend $160.6 million on that program next year.
Another large chunk of the budget, about $72 million, will go toward capital projects, including redevelopment work at the Iberville, Lafitte, Guste II, B.W. Cooper and Florida housing complexes.
The agency has budgeted for fewer staff positions in the coming fiscal year. Last year’s budget set aside $14.2 million to pay 287 people. That amount will be slashed by nearly 13 percent, to $12.4 million, enough for 240 positions, in the coming year. Officials said about half of the 47 unfunded positions are vacant.
Officials gave only a brief overview of the budget at Thursday’s meeting, the first such presentation for the agency’s new board and executive director, who took office this summer. The abbreviated display was in contrast to last year’s presentation, during which several members of the HANO finance team explained the various aspects of the budget, pointing out where HANO would have more or less money to spend on vouchers and other programs.
The shorter presentation and the fact that HANO did not provide copies of the budget to the public, either online in advance or at the meeting, rankled some of those in attendance, who said the moves called into question the new board and executive director’s promises of transparency.
HUD relinquished control of HANO to the city in July after taking over the agency over in 2002, citing years of poor management. Thursday’s meeting was the second for Gregg Fortner, who took over as the agency’s executive director on July 7, and the members of the new board of directors.
Board members said details of the coming year’s budget were discussed in detail at a committee meeting that, like the agency’s board meeting, was open to the public. HANO attorney Robert Barbor said the agency is not required to provide such information at meetings but that it can be obtained through a public records request.
The board, however, voted to require the staff to make such information available online before meetings so that the public can have time to review it.