New Orleans voters on Saturday approved a property tax increase to fund a $75 million settlement with firefighters, meaning the city will be able to implement a deal putting to rest decades-old issues over back pay and pensions for Fire Department personnel.
The voters also extended a millage that funds much of the Sewerage & Water Board’s drainage budget.
The election was the second time Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration sought to get voter approval for a tax to pay for the settlement with firefighters, which stems from a decades-old case involving back pay owed to those in the department.
On Saturday, about 59 percent of voters endorsed the 2.5-mill tax, a dramatic change from April, when voters rejected the tax as part of a package with a tax hike for the Police Department.
New Orleans officials are making a last-minute push to get voters to support a drainage tax …
The drainage tax did even better, winning the support of about 67 percent of voters. The vote means a 30-year extension of the tax at 4.46 mills, slightly lower than the current rate.
The fire tax will bring in about $8.9 million annually for the next 12 years. Of that, $5 million will go toward yearly payments to firefighters to settle the back pay dispute. The rest will be put toward the city’s contributions to the firefighters’ pension system.
The tax is not subject to the homestead exemption and will raise property tax bills by $25 for every $100,000 of a home’s appraised value.
New Orleans voters will once again decide in a few days whether to approve a small increase …
The settlement with the firefighters came after decades of legal fights involving successive mayoral administrations over money the city has owed firefighters starting in the late 1970s.
The deal between the Landrieu administration and the firefighters’ union last year saw the mayor agree to pay the money the firefighters were owed and also to properly fund their pension system in exchange for concessions that will make the financially troubled system less generous to recipients.
When the tax was on the ballot in April, it was tied to a 5-mill increase for the Police Department that would have helped pay for expanding the NOPD's depleted ranks. While the police millage was expected by many to boost support for the fire tax, it apparently dragged down the combined measure, which won the support of only about 46 percent of voters.
The $15.4 million the drainage tax raises a year pays for almost a third of the S&WB’s drainage operations, the only part of the agency's work that is not paid for primarily through user fees. The drainage work includes overseeing and repairing significant portions of the drainage pipes that run underneath the city and operating and maintaining the canals and pumps needed to carry water out.
New Orleans voters will decide in two weeks whether to extend a property tax that pays for a…
City and S&WB officials had cast the tax as vital for the city, needed to keep streets and properties from flooding. And they said it will become even more important in the coming years as the S&WB takes on the costs of maintaining the massive Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control projects being built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers throughout the city, plus the three new permanent pump stations on Lake Pontchartrain.
The tax will drop slightly with the renewal, from 4.66 mills to 4.46 mills. A homeowner with a residential property worth $350,000 who qualifies for the homestead exemption has been paying about $128 a year under the tax but will pay about $123 under the new rate.