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Report: New Orleans sewer board needs new fees amid issues

January 29, 2019

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board desperately needs money for critical infrastructure projects and should start charging a new stormwater fee to pay for upgrades to the city’s drainage system, a state task force said Monday.

The New Orleans Advocate quotes a report the task force adopted Monday after months of studying the Sewerage and Water Board’s operational and financial problems. The task force was created after the August 2017 flood exposed the board’s failing infrastructure.

The report says chronic underfunding and unpredictable revenue streams have crippled the board and the city’s ability to invest in projects and led to an almost entirely reactive, emergency-based maintenance protocol. It says the utility used more than $80 million in emergency spending after the flooding and cash reserves fell most of last year.

Even before its recent financial issues, the board could not afford to keep up with required maintenance and upgrades of its equipment and pipes, the report says.

Property taxes pay for the board’s drainage system, and various groups inside and outside city government have argued for years that a drainage fee could bring in more money and be imposed on government and nonprofit properties exempt from the taxes.

A fee would likely not come until the end of this year or start of 2020, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s infrastructure chief, Ramsey Green, said. The goal would be to create a formula that would avoid adding fees to those already paying for the drainage system through property taxes.

Green represented Cantrell on the task force. Sewerage and Water Board Executive Director Ghassan Korban was also on the task force and said about it that, “I don’t think I could be more in alignment with what they came up with.”

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Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com

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