Fact Check: Mayor Cantrell Stretches the Truth on City’s Millage Proposal


Cantrell

In the run-up to tomorrow’s vote, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has aggressively promoted the city’s millage proposal plan. She has urged voters to approve all three – even going as far as threatening layoffs if voters fail to approve her plan.

The mayor insists that the changes are necessary to ensure a proper budget recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. However, the fact is that regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s vote, City Hall’s bottom line won’t change at all next year. That is because none of the current millages expire until the end of 2021. Even then, the taxes being voted on generate less than 4% of New Olreans’ $633 million budget.

The issue, according to Cantrell, is that her administration has assumed all of the ballot measures would pass, and built those assumptions into the 2021 budget. As a result, if voters choose not to approve the measures, Cantrell says that her administration could be forced to expand furloughs currently in place into potential layoffs. Opponents of the millage proposal, particularly Proposition 2, which would cut 40% of the current city library budget say these are bullying tactics meant to frighten voters into giving into Cantrell’s demands.

“It’s not a response to the failing of these propositions,” said Courtney Kearney, a board member of Friends of the Library. “If these particularly-worded propositions fail, the result is not a loss of jobs. She has decided she will fire people. It’s punitive damage that isn’t directly related to the propositions.”

Overall Millage Proposal

Cantrell claims: the overall millage renewal package that includes all three propositions will result in a tax reduction beginning in January of 2021.

FACT CHECK: Taxes will remain the same for 2021 regardless of whether the millage proposal passes, as the current taxes do not expire until the end of 2021.

Cantrell claims: the Bureau of Government Research (BGR) was supportive of the millage proposal a year ago.

FACT CHECK: the BGR has not published any reports regarding the current millage proposal, other than one in opposition. The BGR recommends voters vote against all three propositions, stating that the current proposal does not give voters adequate information on how these taxes would work for the next 20 years.

“If voters reject the propositions, the City plans to levy the existing taxes for another year,” the BGR report states. “It could then address the shortcomings of the propositions and return to voters in 2021. The City should deliver a new proposal that makes a clear case for each of its components.”

Proposition 2

Cantrell claims: the New Orleans library system does not spend all of the budget allocated to it.

FACT CHECK: in 2018 and 2019, the New Olreans Public Library system spent over 97% of its allocated budget. Although it does have a reserve fund of $14.5 million, there is no plan in place for continuing services long-term with a 40 percent budget cut that lasts for 20 years.

Cantrell claims: the restructuring will direct money towards creating early childhood education access for low-income families.

FACT CHECK: this proposition does not create new early childhood education seats. Instead, it fully funds the city’s current early care program City Seats for the next 20 years using library tax revenue. However, specifics of this plan must be approved by the city council, and are not guaranteed.

Cantrell claims: no library services will be lost or cut if Proposition 2 passes.

FACT CHECK: According to Dr. Gabriel Morely, director of the New Orleans Public Library, this is misleading. “Clearly, the library will not be able to operate at its current level with a 40 to 50 percent budget cut,” Morely told his staff when the proposal was announced in August. Morely also confirmed that there is currently no written, detailed plan for how the library would adjust from a $21 million annual budget to a $14 million annual budget.

Proposition 3

Cantrell claims: the proposition would maintain current affordable housing programs – including the deferred forgivable loan program for homeowners to make health and safety repairs – and help the city structure development programs to ensure access to affordable housing for all residents.

FACT CHECK: According to the BGR report, “While established planning and evaluation processes would guide most usage of the housing tax revenue, the lack of a clear spending plan for the economic development tax makes it difficult for voters to assess its potential for effective outcomes.”

 

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