City Park has been around for more than 150 years, and in that time it has never received a penny of funding from the city of New Orleans.
That could change, though, if voters approve a plan to give the park $2 million a year in tax dollars. The City Council on Thursday voted to put that measure on the ballot on May 4, 2019.
The proposal calls for readjusting millages rate for Audubon Park, the New Orleans Recreation Department Commission and Parks and Parkways.
“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,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a prepared statement. “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.”
Audubon’s proposed adjusted millage would see a reduction to about $6.5 million from $10.9 million. NORDC’s adjusted millage would see an increase to $6.5 million from $4.9, and Parks and Parkways’ funding would be increased to $6 million from $4.9 million.
As part of the proposal, Audubon would add free and discounted days as well as create a partnership with the New Orleans Public Library to check out admission passes.
City Park CEO Bob Becker said the possibility of getting additional revenue is long overdue.
“This is a regional park. It serves more people than just the city of New Orleans, so it’s appropriate for the state to provide some level of support. And it’s appropriate for the city to provide some level of support,” Becker said.
Right now, the park gets $2 million a year but must raise the remaining 90 percent of its budget -- $19.5 million -- on its own.
Becker said the extra money means the park could make repairs before they get out of hand.
“This is a very old park. Most of its infrastructure is more than 80 years old -- roads, sewer, water, drainage, bridges -- and that all has to have a constant capital investment,” he said.
Becker added that some repairs made after Hurricane Katrina are already showing their age. “Those repairs, they need repairs,” he said.
Additionally, the money would go toward extra park police, additional security cameras in the park, upkeep of the Couturie Forest and helping the park store stormwater, instead of letting it collect in the streets.
The proposal also calls for creating an inter-agency parks and recreation group with a goal of coordination on future capital and programming investments.
City Councilmembers Jay Banks, Jared Brossett and Cyndi Nguyen co-authored the proposal. It passed the council 7-0 Thursday.
Danny Monteverde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.