BGR Recommends Against Quarter Sales Tax Renewal
NEW ORLEANS – The Bureau of Governmental Research, a nonprofit government watchdog, has recommended that French Quarter residents vote against a proposition to renew a 0.2495% sales tax to pay for supplemental public safety services. The proposition would extend the tax – set to expire at the end of 2020 – for five years through 2025. It would generate an estimated $1.8 million within the French Quarter in 2021.
BGR says that since the tax took effect in 2016, all the revenue has gone to supplemental Louisiana State Police patrols through an agreement that terminates at the end of 2020. If voters renew the tax, the City administration has proposed using most of the revenue for supplemental New Orleans Police Department patrols and patrols by City-employed security officers. BGR says that the City Council had not approved the administration’s proposal so key terms controlling how the City will spend and account for the tax revenue remain in flux as voters go to the polls.
From the BGR report:
“While there are valid reasons for supplemental public safety services in the French Quarter, and the expiring sales tax is an appropriate funding mechanism, the City’s failure to finalize spending and accountability plans for the tax revenue renders the proposition premature. BGR recognizes that the City’s proposal has some merit. It would consolidate fragmented public safety services and provide more local control of policing, a core municipal responsibility. In addition, the French Quarter, as an economic engine, historic landmark and mixed-use neighborhood, has unique and substantial public safety needs. However, the City’s incomplete spending and accountability plans cannot assure voters that it will effectively utilize the tax revenues to address those needs. With this in mind, the City should work to develop a consensus with French Quarter stakeholders on how to best enhance public safety. This should include a data-driven analysis to determine revenue allocations to police and security patrols. The City’s involvement in developing a solution is essential as it is ultimately responsible for public safety in the French Quarter. If this process results in another tax proposition, it is imperative that the parties involved establish clear spending and accountability plans before calling the election.”