NEW ORLEANS – Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and officials from the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans (S&WB) and the New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD) discussed the importance of the drainage and fire millages on the ballot in the election this Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016.
The millages include 4.46 mills for the drainage renewal and 2.5 mills dedicated for fire protection. Proceeds from the drainage millage fund 30 percent of the upkeep and operations of drainage pumps and canals which keep New Orleans’ streets dry after storms, and the fire millage will pay firefighters what they are owed as part of the pension settlement reached last year. The fire millage, if passed, has a 12-year sunset period that would begin on Jan. 1, 2017, and continue through Dec. 31, 2028. The drainage millage renewal will last for 30 years.
“Passing the drainage and fire millages are vital to New Orleans’ future,” said Mayor Landrieu. “We must do everything we can to provide the Sewerage & Water Board and our Fire Department with the resources they need. Their collective work is essential to keeping us safe from flood and fire. They provide peace of mind, protect us from the harshest elements, and are always ready to respond. Our robust drainage pumping system is the backbone of our city and keeps our neighborhoods from flooding. We must also honor our commitment to our firefighters. They put their lives on the line to save others, and we must fulfill the commitment our city made to them.”
New Orleans City Council president Stacy Head said, “This Saturday the citizens of New Orleans will be asked to vote on two millages, both of which I feel are necessary to fund vital city services. The S&WB millage is required, combined with federal dollars, to complete the ongoing and future infrastructure repairs necessary for flood protection and decent streets. The Fire millage will fund the city’s court-imposed obligation to stabilize the firefighters’ pension system. Without these millages, we could not fund these services unless we made drastic cuts in other areas of our city budget.”
City Council President Head continued, “In 2017, we have already planned cuts to help fill the holes left by court-mandated obligations including increases to the sheriff, stabilization of the firefighters’ pension system, and NOPD consent decree compliance. Moreover, additional state cuts to our criminal justice system funding, cuts to federal grants, and the needs of an appropriately manned police force demand more from the city budget every year. I am committed to finding savings where possible and revenue generation where appropriate, and I believe these millages will provide a vital recurring revenue source.”
District A Councilmember Susan Guidry said, “Please vote YES for the Drainage Millage Renewal. “This is NOT a new tax. It is a property tax renewal. This millage is critical for the upkeep and operation of our drainage system.”
The 4.46 mills for drainage renewal will collect $15 million annually, provide flood protection for New Orleans homes and businesses and has reduced flood insurance premiums for 97 percent of the city. It is a renewal, not a new tax, and provides funding for 30 percent of our city’s drainage system’s maintenance and operations. This renewal is essential to the preservation and protection of New Orleans drainage system for the next generation.
The 2.5 mills dedicated to fire are expected to generate $8.9 million for fire protection and will pay firefighters what they are owed, including fully funding the pension as part of an agreement with the firefighters union on the decades-long firefighters back pay lawsuit and pension lawsuit announced in October 2015. The settlement resolves these significant liabilities, keeps the city on a positive fiscal track, makes major reforms to the pension and ensures that it will be there for future generations of firefighters. The settlement included major structural reforms that will indeed help to fix the broken pension system and effectively save taxpayers $200 to $300 million over the next 30 years.
SUPPORTING SEWERAGE AND WATER BOARD
Sewerage & Water Board’s massive drainage pumping system is the second largest in the world, utilizing an integrated system composed of catch basins, street drainage, pumps, and canals to remove storm water from the city.
The major drainage pumping system can fill an Olympic-sized pool in 1.5 seconds. Without it, the city is prone to flooding, putting life and property at risk. The S&WB has 24 pump stations, 120 pumps and the capacity to pump 50,800 cubic feet per second and 380,000 gallons per second. Renewing the drainage millage is integral to keeping the city protected today and in the future.
FIREFIGHTERS PENSION AGREEMENT
In October 2015, the City of New Orleans reached an agreement with the Firefighters Union on the decades-long firefighters back pay lawsuit and pension lawsuit. The settlement resolved these significant liabilities, keeping the city on a positive fiscal track, making major reforms to the pension and ensuring that it will be there for future generations of firefighters.
The $75 million settlement required an upfront payment of $15 million for the outstanding back pay, with the balance paid over 13 years. The City’s potential liability of more than $200 million is satisfied under the terms of the settlement, and its ability to deliver essential services to residents, such as police, fire, emergency medical services, street repairs and parks and recreation will not be threatened. Under the terms of the settlement, the City will be allowed to satisfy the $21 million that it owes the pension fund by making its annual contribution to the fund.