At today’s meeting, City Council approved reallocating about $140 million in the City’s Capital Budget. Ordinance Number 29491, or item #57 on the agenda, was approved on the consent agenda without any comments or deliberation. This item did come up at Tuesday’s Budget Committee Meeting, but there was little conversation about it at that meeting. Deputy Mayor Grant said that this Ordinance would make technical corrections, replace project cost projection with actual project costs, and would apply new bond money to the Capital Budget.
Here is Ordinance Number 29491 with all of the individual project costs. I had trouble reading all of this information, so I put it all into a spreadsheet (Capital Budget Changes). Of the changes to the Capital Budget, there is approximately $63 million in de-appropriations and $77 million in appropriation. So the changes added about $14 million to the Capital Budget. So this go go beyond just minor and technical corrections.
When you dig a little deeper into the Captial Budget and the proposed changes, a number of question came to my mind. First, I could not find the adopted Capital Budget on the City’s website. The Mayor’s Office webpage has the proposed 2013 Capital Budget, but I could not find the version of the budget that was approved by City Council. Here are some other questions from the proposed capital budget changes:
- Department of Public Works (streets, streetlights and drainage) is always listed by residents as one of their top concerns (see any of the Mayor’s Budget hearings), so then why is over $17 million being de-appropriated from Public Works?
- $732,000 is being removed from “Marconi Bike Path” and $732,000 is being allocated to “Splash Park Enhancements.” Are these to projects linked? If so, who and how was it decided to take money away from the Bike Path and give to the Splash Park? Finally, there is a splash park in New Orleans?
- About $7.5 million is going to the CAO for “Capital Project Management.” Management sounds like this is money for personnel, so won’t that be an operating expense?
- What was the $1 million that Parks and Parkways was going to use for “Teachers Pet Improvements”?
- There are a number of other items that I am sure neighborhood residents would have questions about like why is $3 million being removed from Lincoln Beach, why is $400,000 being taken away from land acquisition in the Lower Ninth Ward, and why is $600,000 being removed from the Gert Town Pool?
I am sure that there are rational answers to these questions. I raise these questions to make a bigger point, without transparency in the budgeting process, how will get the answers to these questions to ensure that City funds are being properly spent and that spending is aligned with the budget priorities of New Orleanians.
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