Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s 1/4-cent sales tax increase in the French Quarter to support an ongoing State Police contingent for the city’s historic core cruised to an easy victory in voting by Quarter residents.
With all of the French Quarter’s eight precincts reporting, the measure won with 78 percent of the vote. Just under 1,000 votes were cast.
The Landrieu administration expects to raise at least $2 million annually over five years from the unusual neighborhood tax increase. Most of that burden will fall to the millions of annual visitors to the Quarter. The tax increase doesn’t apply to hotel stays, however.
City Hall has earmarked the money to pay for a cadre of at least 30 state troopers under an arrangement hashed out with the State Police, the Morial Convention Center and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. State police have maintained a beefed-up presence in the Quarter, at varying levels, since a fatal gun melee broke out on Bourbon Street just before Essence Fest in summer 2014, killing a young Hammond woman and injuring nine others.
During the campaign, supporters of the tax increas sought to overcome doubts among some residents over assurances in the measure that the money would supplement, not replace, current 8th District New Orleans police staffing. Citing city figures, the nonpartisan Bureau of Governmental Research said the city assured it that the NOPD would stick to a baseline of 10 to 15 on-duty NOPD cops assigned to each of three daily patrol shifts.
The overall sales tax rate in the French Quarter will rise to 9.25 percent.
Under one of the formal agreements that underpin the new arrangement, the Convention Center and the CVB will continue providing $1 million a year, and the city would add $500,000 for a melange of law enforcement efforts that include off-duty patrols launched this year by former French Quarter trash company owner Sidney Torres, as well as the mayor’s new yellow-shirted citizen foot posse, NOLA Patrol.
BGR endorsed the tax increase, with a caution: While the ballot measure specifies that the money go to support public safety in the Quarter, exactly how it would be spent could change without a public vote.
Also, the city or State Police could pull out of the deal on 30 days’ notice. Where the money would go in that case is uncertain, according to the report.
BGR called the measure “a novel approach,” saying it would “improve safety for residents and tourists alike, while appropriately allocating the cost burden.”
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