NEW ORLEANS As the New Orleans City Council passed the 2011 budget Wednesday, word spread quickly about spikes in fees and property taxes.
Small business owners like Sergio Cabrera, who has two cigar shops in the French Quarter, say their income isn't keeping up with the increases.
'Everything's going up. Everything's going up and tourism isn't coming in like it used to be. Business is bad out here right now,' Cabrera said.
Council members agreed to raise sanitation fees to $20, and they're expected to add another $2 to that in January.
But the biggest news for many New Orleanians, perhaps, is the 6.74 mills property tax hike.
That's a smaller increase than Mayor Mitch Landrieu proposed in his original budget, but the owner of a French Quarter boutique said it all adds up to an extra burden.
'It just seems like it's one more obstacle that small businesses have had to overcome,' said Gloria Amedee, owner of Wise Buys. 'First Katrina, then the recession, then the oil spill, and now more taxes. It's just harder and harder to make a go of a small business.'
But council members and the mayor faced an uphill battle from the beginning -- specifically a massive budget shortfall. The hike in property taxes is expected to generate $23 million in 2011.
The council ponied up extra cash in some areas, adding $200,000 for animal control, $185,000 for the arts council, and $750,000 for the public defender's office.
Derwyn Bunton, the city's chief public defender, said he's appreciative.
'We're actually very excited that the City Council decided to support and invest in our office, in moving us toward a more fair and just criminal justice system,' Bunton said. 'At the same time, it's not enough.'
Bunton said even with the appropriation and money he gets from traffic camera citations, cuts within his office are looming.
'There's nothing sacred, so it's everything from cuts in service, cuts in types of cases, to just not taking cases at all,' Bunton said.
Council members vow to pursue new ways to shore up some of the budget challenges; for now, the increases are the answer.
'It is tough. For small businesses it is tough and it's hard also for big businesses out here too. Like, you know, even big restaurants -- it's tough for everybody,' Cabrera said. 'We're not happy about it, but what are you gonna do?'