Money collected from the New Orleans hotel occupancy tax is on pace to reach a five-year high, totaling more than $43 million so far this fiscal year. Healthy travel growth means tax revenues could continue to rise next year and beyond.
So where did all the money go?
Three years after purging nearly a third of his lawyers amid a steep budget shortfall, Orleans Parish Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton has told his staff that a new round of stiff cuts — lengthy furloughs, possibly layoffs or some combination — is coming.Oh wait. Nevermind. We only get to use the tourism-generated revenue to pay for promoting more tourism.
Bunton put his austerity plan on paper last week, alerting the City Council, the mayor, judges and Sheriff Marlin Gusman that it “will likely cause serious delays in the courts and potential constitutional crises for our criminal justice system in New Orleans if no solution is reached timely.”
Bunton said he would institute a hiring freeze beginning July 1, the start of a new fiscal year in which he says he’s facing a $1 million shortfall from the current year’s budget of about $6 million.
The 13 percent hotel occupancy sales tax is collected on hotel stays in Orleans Parish. Revenues are split six ways.
The bulk -- 8 cents -- goes to the Louisiana Sports and Exposition District and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The LSED oversees the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Smoothie King Arena.
The City of New Orleans and Orleans Parish School Board each get 1.5 cents for every dollar. The remaining 2 cents are split between the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Regional Transit Authority.
Because, you know, Tourism Matters!