Mayor Cantrell Proposes Adjusting Millage To Fund Parks And Recreation With No New Taxes



LaToya Cantrell, Mayor of New Orleans

Mayor LaToya Cantrell today announced a proposed ballot initiative in order to promote a more equitable framework to fund parks and recreation throughout New Orleans, and with no tax increase.

“Change has to happen. The rebalancing of the millage rates will mean no tax increase to our residents, and it will improve the park system and our public spaces,” said Mayor Cantrell. “This proposal is an example of what we’ve been talking about in terms of seeking an equitable redistribution of revenue – so that our people are getting more benefit from the revenue they generate.”

Mayor Cantrell also plans to establish an inter-agency parks and recreation coordinating group, which has been recommended by the City’s Master Plan. This group would be comprised of the four park agencies to ensure that there is close coordination of future capital and programming investments, and to avoid duplication and overlap.

The proposed notice of intent would readjust the millage rates for Audubon Park, the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC) and Parks and Parkways, in part to allow City Park to finally receive dedicated funding. Audubon’s proposed adjusted millage would be reduced to 1.95 mils (approximately $6.591 million) from 3.31 mils ($10.92 million); NORDC adjusted millage would be increased to 1.95 mils ($6.59 million) from 1.5 mils ($4.95 million); and Parks and Parkways’ millage would be increased to 1.8 mils (or $6.08 million). This adjustment would allow City Park to have a millage of .61 mil (nearly $2.06 million).

Representatives from these groups have been in conversation about the work for several months with representatives from the Mayor’s Office and with support from the Trust for Public Land.

The City Council will consider the proposed notice of intent during tomorrow’s session. Three City Councilmembers – Jay H. Banks (District B), Jared C. Brossett (District D) and Cyndi Nguyen (District E) –  co-authored the proposal. If the proposal passes, the referendum would be put on the ballot for May 4, 2019.

“City Park is thrilled to be working with the City and its park partners on this proposal to rebalance the millage among the park and recreation agencies. With our increased funding, we will be able to provide, for the first time, security patrols 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” City Park CEO Bob Becker said. “We will be able to repair and replace infrastructure (roads, drainage, etc.) which is essential to maintain services in a park where most of the basic infrastructure is more than 80 years old and worn out. We will also be able to participate in holding more stormwater in concert with the City’s stormwater plan. We can increase trash pick-up and grass-cutting throughout the park as well as create a new program initiative to reach out to all segments of our community to better utilize our facilities.”

“We applaud Mayor Cantrell’s vision to strengthen our community’s connection to nature, improve public health and safety, and protect natural resources. This proposal will balance funding for conservation and beautification of public spaces, as well as enrich recreational programming for our kids. This initiative will allow Audubon to fund enhancements to all of its facilities, including stormwater management improvements in Audubon Park, along with capital improvements and increased programming at the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center and the Wilderness Park on the West Bank,” said J. Kelly Duncan, President, Audubon Commission. “Audubon further pledges to expand access and programs for the community, including free and discounted days, a library pass partnership, and more opportunities that connect New Orleanians to nature.”

“For years NORD’s motto has been ‘Something for everyone,’ and with these additional resources, we have the potential to expand our programming and even partner with outside entities to provide other services,” said NORDC Chair Brian P. Egana. “This proposal will help us meet people where they are and help serve the needs of young children, teens and senior citizens.”

“The New Orleans Recreation Development (NORD) Foundation is thrilled to support this important collaboration of New Orleans parks. The reallocation of taxes and agreement to work together increases sustainable funding and access for the benefit of all New Orleanians,” said Louis Lauricella, Chair, NORD Foundation.

“This proposal gives us an invaluable funding opportunity for the care, maintenance and embellishing of our public green spaces and our public trees,” Parks and Parkways Director Ann E. Macdonald said. “With these new funding streams we would be able to fund two additional grounds maintenance crews, one additional forestry crew and all of their supporting equipment.

“The Trust for Public Land has been pleased to be a part of the initiative Mayor Cantrell has encouraged, bringing the four major park providers in New Orleans together to identify ways to collaborate and strengthen all of the city’s parks,” said Sarah Olivier, New Orleans Program Director, Trust for Public Land. There are many ways this work can happen and a major piece of it is funding. Funding for parks in New Orleans should be more equitably distributed, bringing more resources to more parks. The Trust for Public Land is confident that rebalanced parks budget is a win for all New Orleanians.”

SOURCE: City of New Orleans

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