Mayor Proposes Two Police Pay Raises On Heels Of Strong Revenue Forecasts
NEW ORLEANS – Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced Friday the City will exceed its 2014 revenue forecast by $14.6 million – ending at $536.1 million – as a result of responsible budgeting and aggressive economic development.
The City will also revise its 2015 revenue forecast upwards from $536.9 million to $549.1 million.
Landrieu said he will use the additional revenue to propose two pay raises for New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) officers of all rank, beginning with a five percent pay raise on July 1, 2015, and another five percent pay raise for officers on January 1, 2016. The two pay raises follow a five percent pay raise proposed by Landrieu and authorized by the City Council last year, which went into effect on January 1, 2015. In total, when compounded, the net increase is about 16 percent, bringing NOPD pay in line with the Louisiana State Police. The raises are intended to impact both officer retention and recruitment.
“When I took office, we faced a dire fiscal crisis on the verge of bankruptcy,” Landrieu said. “By cutting, reorganizing, and investing in key priorities like retail growth, we’ve been able to turn around the budget and will now be able to give NOPD what it needs to grow and keep our streets safe, which is my top priority. We’re not completely out of the woods yet, though, as the City is far short of an adequate reserve fund and we still face substantial looming liabilities, such as the firefighter pensions and consent decree mandates for the police and jail. However, as our economy and budget strengthen, we’ll keep investing in residents’ top priorities, which include public safety, job creation, parks and recreation and street repairs. None of this, however, would have been possible without the hard work and shared sacrifice of the New Orleans people over the last five years – especially our dedicated public servants. For that, I’m eternally grateful.”
The City exceeded its 2014 forecast by $14.6 million largely due to continued cuts and reorganization in City government and a very strong third and fourth quarter sales tax growth that showed the impact of the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, the two additional Walmarts and numerous other new and expanded retailers. In 2014, the City saw general sales tax revenues grow by 9.0 percent, on top of the 9.5 percent growth in 2013. The City also saw a 94.4 percent increase over last year in EMS collections led by a new vendor, Intermedix. Also, since 2010, unemployment has declined in New Orleans from 8.7 percent in 2010 to 6.9 percent as of April 2015.
With the additional revenues, Landrieu said he will propose two pay raises for NOPD officers of all rank: a five percent pay raise on July 1, 2015, and another five percent pay raise on January 1, 2016. When fully implemented, the Landrieu Administration will have raised police salaries 15.8 percent since taking office in 2010, which means a police officer making $45,000 in 2010 will be making $52,093 in 2016.
Since 2010, Mayor Landrieu has dedicated more than $41 million to rebuild and improve NOPD facilities, including new 5th and 7th District stations. He has pledged to fully fund the five-year, $55 million consent decree for better training, equipment and police. He has purchased more than 500 body worn cameras, 400 new police cars and 50 motorcycles. He has also funded another 150 police recruits for 2015 and dedicated more than $300,000 for an aggressive NOPD recruitment campaign.
“We asked for help to make the NOPD a better place to work and the Mayor has delivered,” said NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison. “Combined with major investments made in new technology and equipment, these pay raises show that the City is committed to investing in the men and women of the NOPD. Now I’m calling on the New Orleans community to step up and join our ranks. Together, we will rebuild the NOPD and make it the best department in the country.”
Landrieu said the City will use most of the additional revenue to build up the City’s reserve fund that will help strengthen its credit rating and prepare for unforeseen major events, such as a hurricane. Credit ratings agencies require cities to have 10 percent of its budget for reserves, or about $55 million for the City of New Orleans. Currently, the City only has about $17 million in its reserve fund – a fund that had no money when Landrieu took office in 2010 and was in deficit following the 2010 budget year. The City must also prepare for looming liabilities that could be costly, such as the firefighter pension, consent decree mandates and the jail.
“When we took office, every decision we made was one between bad and worse; now, we’re in a much better position and can start making decisions between good and better,” said First Deputy Mayor and CAO Andy Kopplin. “We are making great progress, but there are still a number of major challenges and looming liabilities that remain and, of course, any number of unforeseen events that could occur at any time. We will continue to budget cautiously, but intelligently, and invest in key priorities that help us become a better, stronger and more resilient city – helping to ensure every person in every community can take part in the City’s growth and prosperity.”
Landrieu said the City is beginning to prepare its 2016 budget, which will be built on input from residents across New Orleans. The City intends to hold its annual series of community meetings in each council district later this summer to discuss budget priorities. The meetings are designed to gather input as part of the Budgeting for Outcomes process. Exact dates and locations will be announced in the coming weeks.