While begging legislators to help pass proposed tax hikes to help pay off millions the city owes, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been growing his Mayoral Office since 2010, almost $1.1 million in promotions and raises to his Mayoral appointments.
As reported by the Lens, Landrieu has proclaimed in the past that he has streamlined New Orleans City Hall and made the city’s government more efficient. What Landrieu has not proclaimed is the fact that he’s increasing employee salaries while pushing tax hike proposals for property owners in New Orleans.
In the past three years, 50 Landrieu appointees have received $776,000 in salary increases, split about evenly between promotions and raises. In most cases, the employees work closely with Landrieu or his top deputy, Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin.
Though the budget for the Mayor’s Office has dropped since Landrieu’s first year in office — along with most city departments — actual spending has risen every year.
General-fund staff in the Mayor’s Office itself — almost all of whom are appointees — has increased 60 percent since 2011.
Of the 50 employees, which are all listed here, with raises in salaries, 27 of them were given a higher salary because of a promotion in the Mayor’s Office. However, the other 23 employees were found by the Lens to have been given a raise without a promotion in Landrieu’s office.
Former mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni is one example. Berni left his $97,000 job last summer to work for Landrieu’s re-election campaign. In March, the city rehired him as “Senior Advisor for Strategy and Development.” The job pays $133,000, a $36,000 increase over his last job.
Those 23 employees’ most recent raises total nearly $203,000. Their increases since Landrieu took office come to nearly $354,000.
Since Landrieu took office in May 2010, the 50 Mayoral appointees mentioned have been given roughly $1.1 million in raises and promotions by Landrieu. The Lens found that their “most recent salary bumps come to $776,000.”
And, Landrieu has hired more and more employees to work in the Mayor’s Office, while cutting personnel from the city’s the police and fire departments. The Mayor’s Office now has 71 full-time staffers paid from the city’s general fund, an increase from just 44 in 2011.
Overall, the number of unclassified positions in the Mayor’s Office — those funded by outside sources as well as the city’s general fund — has grown from 76 in April 2010 to 136 in April 2014.
Landrieu is fond of increases, hence his three proposals, one of which has failed already, to raise taxes in the city of New Orleans.
As a solution to courts ruling that the city must pay up to $40 million for the city’s firefighters pension fund, renovate the Orleans Parish Prison and refine the police force, Landrieu has proposed a 75 cent increase on cigarettes and other tobacco products, an increase in the city’s hotel tax via a 1.75 percent levy and an increase in New Orleans property taxes to fund the police and fire dept.
As reported, Landrieu’s proposal for a local cigarette tax has already failed in the legislature. But, the other two tax hike proposals are awaiting committee consideration.
Under HB111, sponsored by Rep. Walt Leger (D-New Orleans) New Orleans property taxes would be raised to help pay for police and fire services. Currently, those millages are 5.26 for police and 5.21 for fire. With this proposal, the city could levy up to 6 mills for police and fire services.
Landrieu’s other proposed tax increase, one that would give voters the option to raise the hotel tax, which is currently at 16.44 percent. According to The Lens, “The new rate of 18.19 percent would give New Orleans the second highest hotel tax rate among top tourism cities, after New York City.”
HB1083 by Rep. Jared Brossett (D-New Orleans) would help place the tax increase on the Nov. ballot. Brossett told The Lens that the tax increase was a better option than budget cuts.