’13 revenue forecast raised

NEW ORLEANS — If the City Council passes two proposed ordinances that would raise Entergy bills and require sanitation-fee scofflaws to pay up or face a dry tap, the city could collect another $12.2 million for its general-operating fund next year, the Revenue Estimating Conference said Monday.

That possibility led the body to raise the 2013 revenue forecast to $503.6 million, up from the $491.4 million it forecast weeks ago. The decision makes legal any vote on the ordinances that would result in rate increases and leaves open the possibility of new revenue streams to fund projects such as street light repairs and a new police recruit class.

One of the ordinances would increase Entergy’s franchise fee, or money it pays the city to supply electricity and gas. Most bills would increase by about $2 or $3 a month and result in an additional $10.2 million in the city’s coffers.

During his 2013 proposed budget presentation, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he would like to use the money from an increased franchise fee to repair streetlights rather than use one-time CDBG funds to do the work. The recurring source of revenue would be able to finance a new system that would replace the existing — and aging — lighting system.

City Council Vice President Jackie Clarkson said during Monday’s meeting she would like to see about $2.8 million of the possible Entergy fee money be used for a second police recruit class in 2013.

She said the public has said it wants streetlights and police.

“The public says they want both,” Clarkson said. “We ought to be up 200 (police officers), and we need to get started.”

The proposed 2013 budget would pay for 1,260 officers.

The second ordinance would allow the Sewerage & Water Board to cut off customers’ water if they don’t pay the sanitation fee connected to their water bills. Right now, the only option is to cut off the water if the water portion of the bill is not paid.

The ordinance, if passed, would produce an additional $2 million next year.

Landrieu said during his budget presentation that too many people still refuse to pay the fee, costing the city money it doesn’t have.

While the city expects to collect an additional $386,661 next year from Harrah’s Casino after it expands to its second floor, there will be about $581,000 less in municipal court fines and fees and about $311,000 less in state transportation money.