(Photo: Smart cars patrolled by off-duty NOPD officers in the French Quarter | CC)
The French Quarter Management District is seeking input from residents via survey on a proposal that would allow it to manage a tax-generated fund intended to pay for public safety measures in the Vieux Carre.
New Orleans City Council members on Aug. 20 approved three motions, including one signaling its intent to allow District to administer the French Quarter Economic Development District Trust Fund passed by voters in 2015.
French Quarter residents approved a nearly 0.25% sales tax, and the Development District, to pay for extra police patrols throughout the neighborhood.
Some of the priorities FQMD officials have heard from stakeholders include: the District’s responsibility for administering the trust fund, overseeing patrols, maximizing the number of officers and robust public reporting requirements, among others.
With the sales tax up for renewal by the City Council in December, city officials are proposing that the sales tax be directed into the FQMD to maximize the fund due to the loss of revenue from the continued COVID-19 restrictions ordered by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
The proposal followed “unified” requests from residents and businesses because of the shutdown impacts, according to FQMD officials.
“COVID-19 has had an astounding impact on the FQ EDD sales ta and the hospitality industry’s ability to provide supplemental police patrols,” according to the FQMD.
Most notably, the fund would be used to pay for the FQMD’s Supplemental Police Patrol Program, which includes three off-duty New Orleans Police officers patrolling the French Quarter in Smart cars and responding to calls for service from a smartphone app.
The officers use the French Quarter Task Force app, which was designed by SDT Productions and would also be paid for by the fund.
SDT Productions is owned by garbage magnate Sidney Torres, who launched the app in March 2015.
Passed in an Oct. 24, 2015 special election, the “Quarter for a Quarter” sales tax was expected to produce approximately $2 million annually for public safety programs. In 2019, the sales tax generated $3 million that went solely to the Louisiana State Police, along with $2.5 million from the hospitality industry.