Mayor and officials from NORD, Audubon, City Park tout plan to reallocate millage

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A lone waterbird stands at the edge of the lagoon at Audubon Park. ( archive)

Voters will decide in May whether the city will move forward with an ordinance to reallocate taxpayer revenue for park spaces. The ordinance does not include any tax increase for residents; it will rebalance revenue to help improve city services while bringing revenue to parks.

The proposal would adjust the millage rates for Audubon Commission, the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission and Parks and Parkways in part to allow City Park to finally receive dedicated funding.

The oversight for the city’s park and recreation assets would also be unified under the cooperative plan.

“This vote represents a milestone in creating equity for our public spaces and rethinking how we allocate our tax revenue,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell in a press release. “We look forward to establishing an inter-agency parks and recreation coordinating group that will continue this spirit of collaboration and cooperation.”

Audubon’s proposed adjusted millage would be reduced to 1.95 mills ($6.59 million) from 3.31 mills ($10.92 million); NORDC adjusted millage would be increased to 1.95 mills ($6.59 million) from 1.5 mills ($4.95 million); and Parks and Parkways’ millage would be increased to 1.8 mills (or $6.08 million). This adjustment would allow City Park to have a millage of .61 mill (nearly $2.06 million).

Although Audubon will receive less money from the millage, its property-tax funding will be stabilized for the next 20 years. The Audubon Commission supported the measure to increase accessibility to green space throughout the city, said Audubon Commission President J. Kelly Duncan.

“Mayor Cantrell and the New Orleans City Council have taken an important step towards protecting and improving parks and recreation in our community,” Duncan said. “Specifically for Audubon, this will allow improvements to our facilities across the city, including storm-water management improvements in Audubon Park and increased programming at the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center in New Orleans East and the Wilderness Park on the West Bank to further our commitment to preserving nature and conservation education.”

City Park plans to use the additional funds to provide 24-hour security patrols, repair its aging infrastructure and improve storm-water drainage, said Bob Becker, the park’s chief executive officer.

“We are excited about City Park getting the opportunity to receive the tax funding we have needed for years,” Becker said. “We look forward to continue working together with all of our partners.”

The city’s recreation department would expand its services with the millage increase. “We are proud to have been a part of this collaborative process that will help NORD leverage its increased funding to expand its programming and open up opportunities to partner with outside entities to provide other services — whether it’s for young children, teens or senior citizens,” said NORDC Chair Brian Egana.

Parks and Parkways, which manages, develops and protects about 2,000 acres of public green space, such as neutral grounds and neighborhood parks and playgrounds, would also benefit from the ordinance. “The redistribution of existing millage is a positive step forward providing additional funding to Parks and Parkways without an increase in taxes,” Parks and Parkways Director Ann E. Macdonald said.

City Council members Jay Banks, District B; Jared Brossett, District D; and Cyndi Nguyen, District E, served as co-sponsors of the ordinance. The millage will be put on the ballot for voters on May 4, 2019. The council members, mayor and park officials worked in coordination with the Trust for Public Land on the plan designed to improve the city’s recreation facilities and public green space.

“We believe this rebalancing of the millage will result in a more equitable distribution of public resources and better parks for all New Orleans residents,” said Sarah Olivier, Trust for Public Land’s New Orleans program director.

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